Witchcraft or Madness? The Amandiki of Zululand, 1894-19141
In late May 1999 Anglican Archdeacon, Ebenezer Ntlali, performed an exorcism to drive out evil
spirits from a hundred or so schoolgirls at St John's College, a church school with over a
thousand students in Umtata, of former Transkei region of South Africa. According to
newspaper reports, the outbreak of hysteria had been mounting for over a week, with some of
the girls foaming at the mouth, fainting, jerking and screaming. No boys were affected. Whilst
initially dismissing the behaviour as a hoax because of the forthcoming June examinations, the
principal was eventually forced to 'send out an urgent request for priests'.
1 Work-in-progress: please do not quote. Further comments - to email@example.com - would be very welcome.
My thanks to the usual suspects, but particularly to Pieter Nel and Unnay Narrine of the Pietermaritzburg Archives
Repository for their professional assistance and personal enthusiasm for my project; and to Steve Terry, whose
forbearance has been phenomenal.
2 Jeff Guy, 'Ecological factors in the rise of Shaka and the Zulu Kingdom' in S. Marks and A. Atmore (eds.), Economy
and Society in Pre-Industrial South Africa (London: Longman, 1980), p.117.
The first attempt at exorcism - with all the affected girls in one classroom - was a failure because
'the spirit was moving from one girl to another', and Ntlali was forced to do individual exorcisms
instead. Thirty-two girls were afterwards admitted to Umtata General Hospital where twenty-five
were sedated and sent home, four were placed under observation in the casualty section, two
were sent to the medical outpatients department because it was suspected they were 'ill', and one
was sent to the psychiatric section. The hospital's medical superintendent, Dr Shadrack Ndindwa,
described these patients as being in a 'very hysterical state'. The school was closed for a week
after the exorcism.