Swatis have been left ruing a missed opportunity to witness the art of wizardly at work after the government outlawed a contest pitting the country’s witchdoctors that was set for the end of July.
The show, which was meant to display healing and spell casting skills, was organized by visiting traditional healer Guensta Ikartachi, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo who claims to have previously hosted similar shows in countries such as Cameroon, Gabon and Kenya.
Its venue was to be the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre located in eSwatini’s economic hub, Manzini.
Ikartachi said the purpose of the contest was to strengthen the belief in traditional healing and not to cause injury to third parties.
Government spokesperson Percy Simelane said eSwatini authorities made it clear that they would not allow such an event to take place because it violates the Crimes Act of 1889, whose sections 75 to 80 criminalized witchcraft.
"We would not condone anything where there is mention of witchcraft because the country banned the pointing of fingers on issues related to witchcraft," Simelane said.
The banning of the show did not only come as a blow to many Swatis, but it has also left the lead organizer under tight scrutiny by the government.
Ikartachi is being investigated on how and why he was in the country in the first place.
The Congolese said he would obey the Swati government but argued that the law prohibiting the competition was archaic and could not supersede the constitution.
“The constitution says a person has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief. This law is inconsistent with the constitution,” he said.
The country, formerly known as Swaziland, once hosted a similar contest in 1979 which was won by local traditional healer Africa Gama after he managed to cure a patient of a certain illness within 30 minutes.
“We were competing with medical doctors, prophets and other traditional healers from across the world. Each one of us had been tasked with displaying their powers in curing people with various illnesses within a specified period of time,” Gama told APA.
He boasted to be the current hero since there has never been another competition.
Traditional healers such as Gama have already met with Ikartachi to discuss issues affecting their operations and they had also welcomed the show initiative.