Moral Low Ground


Swaziland Aviation Official: 150 Meter Altitude Limit for Witches on Broomsticks

May 14, 2013 by Brett Wilkins in Africa with 0 Comments
Keep it low, Broom-Hilda! (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

Keep it low, Broom-Hilda! (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

One of Swaziland’s top civil aviation officials has cautioned all witches to keep their flying brooms below the legal 150 meter altitude limit or risk facing stiff penalties.

UPI reports that Sabelo Dlamini, marketing and corporate affairs director for the Civil Aviation Authority in the tiny southern African kingdom, was addressing reporters about the case of a private detective arrested for flying a remote-control toy helicopter outfitted with a video camera. The accused faces charges of operating an unregistered aircraft and failing to appear before his tribal chief.

When asked to explain the applicable laws in the case, Dlamini replied that “a witch on a broomstick should not fly above the limit,” that limit being legally set at 150 meters (492 feet).

The same statute also applies to remote-control toy aircraft and children’s kites. Violators can be punished by imprisonment or a fine as high as R500,000, or about $55,000.

UPI reports that Swazi press had a hard time discerning whether or not Dlamini was serious, but belief in witches is very serious in the traditional African kingdom. In fact, in 2010 an albino girl was shot dead in front of her friends and then beheaded in what police said was a ritual murder. Witch doctors believe that the blood and body parts of albino children bring good luck when used in potions.

But in Swaziland, brooms consist of short bundles of sticks lashed together without handles, making them quite a challenge for witches to ride off into the moonrise. According to South Africa’s Times Live, Swazi witches typically use their brooms to fling potions about, not for transportation.

Odd laws governing women periodically make headlines in Swaziland, where the authoritarian King Mswati III has ruled his million subjects by decree since 1986.

In 2002, the royal household decreed that women should not wear trousers, and that soldiers who spotted them doing so could tear them off.

More recently, it was the “rape-provoking” miniskirt that drew the king’s ire.

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