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The growing threat of witchcraft

Torn Apart: BOYD PHIRI
BEING accused of practising witchcraft is something which people in the hood are used to, especially when it is followed by mob justice.Old folks know too well that if you are to survive social prejudice in the hood you need to avoid anything to do with witchcraft.
The University of Zambia (UNZA) has come to learn about this fact the hard way after word went round on social media that it was planning to start practising witchcraft.
Actually, it did not want to start practising witchcraft the truth is, the institution was given money by UNESCO to introduce a programme in witchcraft, oh sorry, intangible heritage.
The sum of $340,000 is a lot of money to be given by UNESCO to any institution of higher learning in Zambia.
And if you were planning to go and study witchcraft at UNZA, you would be pleased to start by multiplying the amount through sorcery as part of an aptitude test.
What more can a department of witchcraft ask for if not for students’ abracadabra to increase funding to the institution’s coffers.
Pursuing a degree programme in witchcraft at UNZA is something people in the hood never imagined.
As far as they are concerned, witchcraft is when someone suffers from chipute (boil) in perpetuity and his mother points an accusing finger at an old man next door as being responsible for the misfortune.
Well, you would argue that no-one can practise witchcraft without funding from UNESCO.
In the hood things happen naturally, which is why you often read in the news about some witches and wizards crash-landing at prayerful people’s door-steps.
Stories have been told that those who practise witchcraft in the hood use creatures like rats to steal money from people’s homes, perhaps to fund their operations.
But whatever the amount witches and wizards make per night, it cannot beat the $340,000 given to UNZA by UNESCO for intangible heritage.
Actually, dollars are beyond the reach of most hood-dwellers.
However, if there is some truth in what the social media has captured in the last few days about UNZA, ichishimba (charm) lies in umutima wa kanyelele (the heart of an ant).
Obviously, attaining a higher level in witchcraft knowledge would no longer depend on one’s age as some hood-dwellers believe.
What if careers masters in secondary schools started advising some pupils to study witchcraft at the university?
Imagine some pupils refusing to heed their parents’ advice to study medicine opting to pursue a programme in witchcraft at UNZA.
Yes, children often want to follow their hearts, and if a child says I want to study witchcraft at UNZA, what can a parent do?
I remember one uncle of mine wanted to entice me to become a brick-layer many years ago, a trade he was involved in, but because I wanted to follow my heart, I chose journalism.
Otherwise, my buildings would be collapsing every rainy season because of lack of passion in bricklaying.
Similarly, some children in the hood would want to follow their hearts to study witchcraft at UNZA instead of studying medicine, for instance.
“I want to follow my grandfather’s foot-steps,” a child would say to his parents.
His parents would respond: “But your grandfather didn’t need to go to university to acquire knowledge in witchcraft. Besides, we can’t have a family full of wizards.”
“But my friend at school wants to be a teacher because his grandfather was a teacher, what’s the difference?” the child would say.
“At least teaching is marketable. Which company is going to offer you a job as a wizard?” his parents would say.
“I will get a job at a museum where they keep witchcraft objects, artifacts and rituals,” the child would say to make his parents understand that intangible heritage is not all about witchcraft.
A university spokesperson came out to dispel speculations that the institution was about to introduce a degree programme in witchcraft.
Of course, he did not invite a witchdoctor to come and prove the university’s innocence on the matter.
Needless to say, witches and wizards already practising witchcraft in the hood were concerned that they would now need an amnesty in order to be formally allowed to study witchcraft at UNZA.
But if you think UNESCO’s $340,000 funding towards a degree programme in witchcraft at UNZA went too far, just wait until a rat snatches your wallet from your house at night.