What residents in a rural African village report about at a mysterious white beast with a doglike head and backside resembling a large swine is frightening. Not because the creature will harm them, but because superstition and accusations surrounding the beast could lead them to harm each other.
"This must be the work of black magic," an official in the Oshana region of northern Namibia told the Informante newspaper.
Regional Councilor Andreas Mundjindi said residents have spotted the beast chasing dogs and goats, and a young man said it tried to attack him as he walked home.
Several residents said they are now too scared to walk alone. One theory has it that the beast may have come from the home of a local elderly man.
"Everyone believes it is his beast and even he knows that we think so," an unnamed resident told Informante.
Accusations like that can have serious consequences in Namibia and throughout sub-Saharan African where elderly people are often accused of practicing the "old ways," or witchcraft. Thousands have been forced to flee for their lives, and many do not survive. Across the continent, there are frequent reports of people accused of witchcraft being murdered by family members, neighbors or frenzied mobs.
"In most cases it is a quarrel or jealousy or just superstition that drives this," said Phepsile Maseko of the Traditional Healers Organization based in South Africa. "When people are poor and uneducated they tend to focus on the witch hunt when there is any type of problem."
Maseko said the widely-held belief in "black magic" in Africa can be a problem for her organization's members who are sometimes accused of being "witch doctors" because they practice ancient, indigenous forms of medicine.
Maseko believes better education and more legal protections are needed to end witchcraft-related violence in Africa. Until then, when strange things happen- or are just rumored to have happened- she fears more innocent people will be hurt.