“Sangomas Are after People’s Money”: Family and Community Discourses around the South African Youth
In 2012, Bishop Joe Seoka of the Anglican Church in South Africa, and former president of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), dismissed claims that young people in Marikana (where 34 mineworkers were massacred by the South African police during a protest for better wages on August 16, 2012) used muthi (traditional medicine provided by sangoma/inyanga) to protect themselves against bullets—reasoning that they were too well educated to believe such. His contention provoked social observers, who further raised questions not only on the views of the educated and non-educated towards traditional belief systems, but on how sangomas are talked about in families and across communities. This study looked at whether young people in Chiawelo, Soweto, think sangomas are helpful within their community or not. In addition, it looked at whether young people think or believe sangomas can improve or depreciate the lives of community members (expressly during sicknesses). Findings in the literature suggest that socialisation helps shape young people’s views and expressions towards traditional healers within their families and communities. Through in-depth interviews with 11 young men and four key informants in Chiawelo, a site in Soweto (South Africa), evidence about different types of socialisation and its influence on young men’s lives is drawn out in this article. The study suggests that although both primary and secondary socialisation helped shape young people’s views towards traditional healers, observation and interpretation often dictate in the way young men in Chiawelo view traditional healers. The study contests “socialisation” and “habitus” as theoretical frameworks.
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