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  • Author: Kateřina Mildnerová x
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Negotiation of Legitimacy of Witch-Finders in Lusaka


The article aims at legal and illegal activities of Lusaka´s traditional healers within the system of traditional medicine which is primarily anchored in the constitution of traditional healers´ associations. It primarily focuses on witch-finders, whose social status, professional position and authority is constantly negotiated within the formal and informal sector of traditional medicine. Since the late 1990s, the quest for services of traditional healers specialised in witch-finding has gained popularity, particularly amongst the impoverished Lusaka compound-dwellers. Due to the increasing public violence against those denoted as witches, the activities of witch-finders were officially banned by the Witchcraft Act in 1995 and this profession is not officially recognised by the Constitution of Traditional Health Practitioners Association of Zambia (THAPAZ). In spite of the prohibition, there remain many witch-finders in Lusaka who practise witch-finding secretly, in order not to commit an offence they do not openly denounce the name of an alleged witch. Their authority and credibility is threatened by many “official” as well as “unofficial” competitors in the city and it must be constantly reaffirmed and negotiated by introducing innovations. The ability to keep clients and to gain a good reputation thus depends on the originality of their diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. At the same time witch-finders must counter diverse obstacles and uncertainties resulting from their illegal status within the sector of traditional medicine. The author analyses tactics that Lusaka´s witch-finders have developed and employed to negotiate their social status, credibility and authority visà-vis the competition from the “official” traditional healers.

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African Independent Churches in Zambia (Lusaka)


The African Independent churches (AICs) in Zambia, as elsewhere in Africa, from their very beginning formed a protest movement against the cultural imperialism undertaken by the missionary representatives of the historic mission churches and also played an important role in the anti-colonial political struggles. In Zambia, the early AICs were closely related to witchcraft eradication movements such as the Mchape, or socially and politically oriented prophet-healing churches such as The Lumpa church of Alice Lenshina. Since the 1970s and in particular in the 1990s the Christianity in Zambia has been significantly marked by the proliferation of the African Independent Churches - both of Pentecostal and prophet-healing type. These churches that started mushrooming particularly in urban settings became part of the strengthening charismatic movement, particularly within Protestantism. A typical feature of AICs is focus on spiritual healing and religious syncretism - the local traditional customs and beliefs in dangerous ghosts, ancestral spirits, or witches are placed within the biblical religious framework where the Holy Spirit (Muzimu Oyela) is considered to be the only source of healing whereas other ‘inferior spirits’ are labelled as demons. The traditional methods of healing are creatively combined with Christian healing by means of prayers, spiritual blessings, laying on of hands on patients and demon exorcism - it is believed that only a body rid of bad spirits can receive the Holy Spirit, and thus be healed. The paper draws on both secondary literature concerning African Independent Churches and primary data issued from fieldwork in Lusaka (2008-2009).

Open access