It's Illegal For Witches To Fly Broomsticks Above 150 Meters In Swaziland

Neal Campbell

Witches theses days may have it easier than when they were burned at the stake, but, in Swaziland, if a witch flies a broomstick higher than 150 meters (492 feet) in the air, she is subject to arrest and a fine of R500 000 (about $55,000 USD).

Civil Aviation Authority marketing and corporate affairs director Sabelo Dlamini told Swaziland's The Star Early Edition, "A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the (150m) limit."

Dlamini's unexpected response was in answer to a question from the Swazi press who were inquiring about the arrest of Hunter Shongwe for operating a remote controlled drone equipped with a video camera. Shongwe was using the drone to conduct a private investigation.

It's a funny story on its surface but also a little shocking. In Swaziland, witchcraft is still taken seriously.

Illnesses is often considered a curse, and witch doctors pay an annual tax of $1.15. Last year, a member of the Swazi parliament argued that the tax should be raised to help the country deal with its growing debt.

A recent effort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS by circumcising men in Swaziland failed partially in part to the common belief that body parts could be used by witches for dark purposes:

"Criminals are known to seek 'strengthening' potions made with human body parts. Killings associated with 'ritual murder' routinely correspond with national elections. Victims, usually children or older people, are found with body parts missing."

Swazi men were worried that their foreskins might end up in the wrong hands and end up being used against them.

In April, a Mambane man used his family's strong belief in witchcraft as a defense in a trial for killing his aunt after discovering a black robe in her house.

If there's any good news beyond the headline, it is that Swazi witches who don't fly higher than 150 meters will not be penalized.

Photo Credit: Karen Roe