The leadership of the Albinism Society of Botswana (ASB) is embarking on a nationwide awareness campaign “to create greater awareness of the albinism condition and thus debunk the erroneous, harmful beliefs around it.” One of those beliefs is that the body parts of an albino make highly potent muti potions and in Tanzania, albinos are hunted down and slaughtered for that purpose. Purveyors of this heinous act believe that this muti can make one filthy rich.
The amounts vary wildly but according to the Red Cross, a complete set of body parts costs P750 000 on the black market. One of the items on the uniform programme for the ASB kgotla meetings that will be held in Gaborone, Molepolole, Kanye, Palapye, Masunga, Maun and Gantsi is “Myths, Facts & Killings of People with Albinism.” The Society’s Secretary, Gaontebale Mokgosi, says that the targeting of albinos for muti killing is common knowledge and that in an interconnected world, there is no reason to suppose that Botswana’s are any safer. “We are talking about an endangered group of people with a price tag on them.
We have Tanzanian traditional doctors in Botswana who claim supernatural powers to make people rich. That has to worry us because we know how they supposedly do that in their own country. We also have our own traditional doctors who never disclose secrets of their trade and it is possible that they also believe that albinos can make strong muti potions. We learn that in Malawi even the graves of albinos are targetted,” states Mokgosi, adding that Botswana has a serious human trafficking problem that has the effect of putting albinos at particular risk.
The Society’s Chairperson, Sergeant Kgosietsile, says that the other aim of the awareness campaign “is to discourage and prevent human rights violations and stigmas against people with albinism.” The Society is lobbying the government to officially declare albinism a disability and accord albinos special rights relating to health, education and employment.
The awareness campaign will deal with the latter issues. In the past, Kgosietsile has expressed belief that albino ritual killing that happen in Botswana are obscured by the language that authorities use. He said that ritual killings are reported in the form of “a man has been killed for ritual purposes” which doesn’t raise any red flag unless the report was more specific. He would prefer reportage along the lines of “an albino man has been killed for ritual purposes.” He believes that more precise description such as the Society advocates would reveal that Botswana albinos are under attack. Kgosietsile said that some time in the past, the Society approached Statistics Botswana with a proposal that its population and housing censuses should identify albinos as such.
Members believe that this disaggregation would yield information that would enhance their visibility in society. For one, Kgosietsile believes that such disaggregation would help illuminate the ritual killing issue because it would show how many albinos died and what they died of. The awareness campaign will begin in Palapye on November 7 and end in Gaborone on November 16.