The South African Federation for Mental Health (SAFMH) strongly condemns the stigma surrounding mental illness that has led to the tragic death of Jostina Sangweni from Soweto. Jostina was beaten and burned alive on 26 March 2020 after being accused of witchcraft. Sadly, after being taken to a hospital for care, she passed away on the 5th April 2021. This incident shows the lack of awareness surrounding mental illness and how dangerous, and even fatal, the lack of awareness can be. SAFMH wishes to extend its condolences to Jostina’s loved ones who are mourning her passing. We trust that justice will be served and that the people responsible for her murder will be held accountable by the South African judicial system.
It is clear from this incident and others like it, where women, in particular, are accused of witchcraft, that government needs to take action. Now. It is also a by-product of South Africa’s current issue with gender-based violence. SAFMH condemns all crimes and abuse of women and those who are mentally ill, both women and men. We urge the public to condemn inhumane actions and to involve authorities instead of resorting to ‘mob justice.’ Further, we urge the public to reach out to organisations like SAFMH for assistance in referrals and information surrounding mental health. We urge the public to reach out before resorting to violence towards those who are mentally ill.
SAFMH calls on the government to take urgent action in this regard and to immediately increase its mental health response. There is a clear need for government to upscale its efforts to address mental health-related public education and stigma eradication urgently. Further, SAFMH would like for the government to address this issue publicly and explicitly condemn these inhumane actions, as well as how they plan to implement structures and invest in mental health. At a time when South African’s Mental Health Policy Framework has lapsed and government has remained silent on its future vision for mental health, these types of injustices could continue to occur in the absence of a strong mental health response from government.
For enquires, please contact:
NAME: Nadine Dirks (Project Leader: Information & Awareness)
CELL: 079 799 6533
Picture: David Monje – Unsplash