Title page for ETD etd-08222008-130311

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Yamamoto, Kyuta
URN etd-08222008-130311
Document Title Witchcraft in societies in transition - the case of Bafokeng
Degree MSocSci
Department Anthropology
Advisor Name Title
Prof S E Cook Supervisor
  • platinum mines
  • traditional doctors
  • Royal Bafokeng Nation
  • witchcraft beliefs
  • wealth
  • rumour
Date 2008-04-17
Availability restricted

The primary aim of this study is to examine witchcraft beliefs and practices in the Royal Bafokeng Nation in the North West Province of the Republic of South Africa. Social transition is in progress and witchcraft beliefs are flourishing in this region. Paying close attention to the present social context of the Nation, I try to answer the question: how and why do people in the Bafokeng Nation hold witchcraft beliefs?

While many prior studies deal with witchcraft beliefs, the data these studies tend to rely on primarily derives from informants’ narratives. They therefore cannot provide insight into actual practices related to the beliefs. By examining dialogues occurring between a ngaka (traditional doctor) and patients who suspect witchcraft in their lives, this study attempts to analyze actual practices surrounding witchcraft. In addition, I examine witchcraft stories and rumours collected in the Bafokeng Nation as collective expression of these beliefs.

These examinations establish that the Bafokeng people are generally frustrated by the uneven distribution of wealth directly or indirectly derived from platinum mines in their community. They wonder how one person succeeds while another fails. People’s frustration sometimes turns into jealousy towards individuals’ success and may result in accusations of witchcraft.

A rumour about the secretive relationship between platinum mines and Kgwenyape, a snake-like mythical creature, is examined and then employed to illustrate that modern things such as mining as well as traditional things can be explained through people’s beliefs in witchcraft and supernatural powers.

After analyzing the findings, I present an answer to the question above. One of the reasons why the Bafokeng people hold witchcraft beliefs is to help them cope with hard-to-understand and hard-to-accept realities, such as poverty in the midst of great wealth.

© University of Pretoria 2007

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