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Title:Reflections on the socio-economic content of medicine murder in Lesotho
Author:Mabiriizi, D.
Periodical:The Zimbabwe Law Review
Geographic term:Lesotho
Abstract:This paper addresses the question of why medicine murder persists in Lesotho, despite capital punishment and other attempts to control it. While the specific origins of medicine murder remain uncertain, the author suggests that in the process of transformation of Sotho communal society into a class society, totemism became a religion, and the totemic increase ceremony a sacrifice. This was a time when witchcraft, formerly tabooed, became more widespread and, with the growth of an exchange economy, resulted in payment to the witch doctor. Around the same time the killing of clansmen, formerly tabooed, became a possibility for the good of the rising State. In Lesotho there is no evidence of direct human sacrifice, but instead chiefs made their medicine horns, 'lenaka', from the body parts of war victims. This was supposedly for the good of their people. The medicine murder cases of the 1940s showed that medicine murder was dominated by the chiefs. But the murderers themselves, though sometimes justifying their actions with the 'need to protect the people', were really desperate participants seeking economic security. Political and economic motives are the fundamental causes of medicine murder. Belief in magic or 'black medicine' is only an effect. Notes, ref.