In South Africa, inhabitants have a real fear of a dwarf-like creature called the Tokoloshe or Hili. Some people won't even speak of it to keep this evil spirit from their homes. So, what exactly is the Tokoloshe?

Many describe it as a water sprite with one arm, one leg, the face of an old man on a boy's body, and a penis so large it has to be slung over his shoulder. It becomes invisible by swallowing a pebble and allows children to see him. However, according to Zulu shaman Credo Mutwa, the above description is not quite accurate. He says the Tokoloshe is a nasty teddy bear-like humanoid with a thick, sharp bony ridge on top of its head. While his appearance is unclear, his motives are not.

According to Zulu mythology, Tokoloshes are called upon by malevolent people to cause trouble for others. It is believed he was created from dead bodies of shamans to rape women and sometimes attacks, abducts, or in other ways does harm to children. It terrorizes children by scratching them as they sleep, leaving long, parallel scratches on a child’s back and upon a child’s thigh, scratches that become infected and itch terribly. At it's worst, it can cause illness and even death. But some Tokoloshe related deaths weren't committed by an evil spirit.

In 2005, two year old Masixole Sotenjwa was stabbed 38 times by a man named Monwabisi Nkathu who claimed he believed the toddler was a Tokoloshe. In the United States, if a crime such as this was committed, the man or woman would receive a severe punishment like the death penalty. Nkathu was sentenced seven years in prison for culpable homicide and his case was not the first. The 1933 Mbombela case and the 1992 Ngema case, in which the defendants were convicted of culpable homicide for “tokoloshe” killings, rather than murder.

In most cases communities preferred to deal with the matter themselves in informal “kangaroo courts”, the perfect setting for criminals to use their beliefs as scapegoats to avoid punishment. In "kangaroo court" people testify on what they might have seen and the court will understand. Physical evidence isn't required nor sought.

While it's debatable on whether or not the Tokoloshe truly exists, it is hoped that South Africa develops an effective solution to deal with these crimes. In the meantime, enjoy a story from Tales of the Tokoloshe By: Pieter Scholtz and Cherie Treweek.



The Herald Online


Anonymous said…
I'm from south Africa and this sounds like central African shit. though many rural communities still believe in witch doctors and all that jazz, a legal court will not let them off easy for murder. and, most black people here are westernised, having ipads, fancy cars etc. I'm white, and live in the city. we are not stuck in the middle ages. The communities who believe these things so strongly, are in rural areas and lack education.

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