Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 July 2003
Accusations, trials and executions of witches and sell-outs frequently occurred at the MPLA's Eastern Front in Angola (1966–75). These events do not fit the general self-portrayal of the MPLA as a socialist, secular movement that was supported by the Angolan population without recourse to force. The people interviewed, mostly rural civilians from south-east Angola who lived under MPLA control, suggested many links between treason and witchcraft, yet at the same time differentiated between these accusations. Witchcraft cases were often initiated by civilian families and the accused were mostly people who had a long-standing reputation of being a witch. While the MPLA leadership was often suspicious of the accusations of witchcraft, many civilians regarded the trials of witches as more legitimate than those of treason. Civilians held that the accusation of treason was often used by the guerrillas to get rid of political or personal rivals and/or to control the population. The accusations showed few patterns and cannot be interpreted as deliberate attempts to overcome structural forms of domination, of chiefs over followers, men over women or old over young.