Height Limit for Witches Flying on Broomsticks


The days when witches could enjoy the untethered freedom of flying high in the sky are, regrettably, over. Like airplanes and helicopters, witches on broomsticks must also obey Swaziland’s aviation laws.

Witches flying above 150 metres (492 feet) will be subject to arrest and a hefty fine of R500 000 ($55 000 USD), civil aviation authorities in  said, according to a report by Swaziland‘s The Star.

“A witch on a broomstick should not fly above the [150-metre] limit,” Civil Aviation Authority marketing and corporate affairs director Sabelo Dlamini told the newspaper.

The report said it was hard to say how serious he was, but witchcraft isn’t a joking matter in Swaziland, where the people believe in – and fear – the power of black magic.

The statute also forbids toy helicopters and children’s kites from ascending too high into the country’s airspace.

Dlamini was asked by the Swazi press to explain the country’s aviation laws following the arrest of a private detective, Hunter Shongwe, for operating a toy helicopter equipped with a video camera. Shongwe was arrested after he boasted about using the toy to gather surveillance information similar to the way a drone aircraft operates.

The detective was charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and for failing to appear before his tribal chief to be questioned by traditional authorities about his toy drone, the first arrest of its kind in Swaziland.

It is doubtful that witches in Swaziland use brooms to fly. Swazi brooms are short bundles of sticks tied together and do not have handles. Swazi witches are known to use them to fling potions about homesteads – but not for transport.

It’s a funny story on the surface – and probably said in jest – but it’s also a little disturbing. In Swaziland, witchcraft is still taken very seriously.

Illness is often considered a curse, brought on by witches. People go to witch doctors instead of medical doctors for healing. Last year, a member of the Swazi parliament suggested raising the annual R10.50 ($1.15 USD) tax paid by witch doctors to help the country deal with its growing debt.

A recent effort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS by circumcising men failed partially because of the common belief that body parts could be used by witches for dark purposes.  “Some men feared that the foreskin could end up in the wrong hands, being used by some unscrupulous people for their ulterior motives,” health minister Benedict Xaba told the Times of Swaziland.

Criminals are known to seek ‘strengthening potions’ made with human body parts. Killings associated with ‘ritual murder’ routinely correspond with national elections. Victims, usually children or older people, are found with body parts missing.

In April, a man in Mambane used his family’s strong belief in witchcraft as a defence for killing his aunt after discovering a black robe in her house.

If there is any good news here, it is that Swazi witches staying under the 150m limit will not be penalized.

 

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