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Khotso Sethuntsa – A documented example of ukuthwala

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Ukuthwala is a Nguni word that means to carry something using traditional medicines (imuthi), occultic knowledge, and a familiar, a man-made or conjured spirit. Examples of familiars include,

  • Umamlambo, a familiar that looks like a snake, typically used by women to gain wealth. The term is also used to describe a mermaid or a seductive woman. According to Zulu mythology, umamlambo is a river goddess that is usually depicted as a large snake-like creature. It has been described as a fortune snake that helps someone acquire power, riches, and status in a short period of time.  
  • Ichithi, a familiar that looks like a snake, typically used by men to gain wealth.

The aim of ukuthwala is to gain influence, riches and or power. However, the gains granted come at a terrible cost to the individual doing the practice, known as “umuntu othwele” in Zulu, and their loved ones. There have been varying accounts of ukuthwala, however many cannot be proven accurate. The only known and documented account of ukuthwala is that of Khotso Sethuntsa, a healing practitioner.

The life of Khotso Sethuntsa has been studied by many scholars who have tried to understand the mystery behind the nature of his siddhis (supernatural powers) and wealth.

Khotso was born in 1898 in a mountain village located on the banks of the Senqu river in the country of Lesotho. He grew up under impoverished conditions in a rural mountain village at a time when South Africa was under the apartheid regime.

Khutso – the healing practitioner

In the 1920s, while working as a farm worker, he started a business as traditional healer in Kokstad. Khotso rose to fame as a formidable traditional healer, while at the farm.

One day Khotso got into a dispute with the owner of the farm and was punished by the owner. After the punishment, a tornado came and destroyed the farm. Khotso told the Kokstad newspaper that he was responsible for the tornado destroying the farm. Claiming that he used his powers to invoke the tornado to destroy the farm. After this story was published Khotso became renowned as a powerful practitioner. 

Khutso – the ukuthwala practitioner

In 1960, Khutso relocated to the Transkei where he established his principal headquarters in Lisikisiki. After which he began working as an ukuthwala practitioner. The origin of Khotso’s fortune is shrouded in mystery. However, he is known to have made claims about acquiring his riches through ukuthwala and he had two snakes: umamlambo that gave him power and wealth and inkanyamba which gave him good health, luck, and prosperity. People that knew him, both admired and feared him. Some believed that he had superhuman abilities.

Khutso – the mogul

It is not known what supernatural power Khotso actually had. However, as soon as he gained fame, he started leaving a lavish and flashy lifestyle. He started acquiring many homes, wives and concubines, farms, and cars. He had 9 homes, 23 wives, 16 farms, and every year he would purchase a new Cadillac in cash. It is said that he had a bodyguard and would carry a suitcase full of money and he would flash this money in public. 

At the height of his career, Khotso was getting private visits from the apartheid prime ministers Verwoerd and Strijdom for spiritual guidance and protection. Khotso had relationships with other apartheid leaders from the Nationalist Party and he had an expansive client list that include Americans and African from outside South Africa. After Verwoerd survived the assassination by David Pratt, he attributed Khotso medicine (muthi) protection as the cause of the near miss.   

At the time when many black people were oppressed by the apartheid government. Khotso is said to have had strong ties with the ruling party. He was a man that rose from poverty and obscurity to wealth and power. The astounding thing is that he was a black man that became a millionaire during the apartheid era while he was illiterate and spoke very little English.

Khutso’s passing

In 1972, Khotso passed away at a Durban hospital due to heart failure at the age of 74 years.

To this day, many years after his passing, people come to Khotso’s headquarters in Lusikisiki every year to celebrate Kruger Day, a tradition that Khotso started while he was alive. On this day his followers make sacrifices to invoke his spirit. Many people that knew him do not even want to mention his name because they fear his power.

Based on the accounts of people that knew Khotso, he sounds like he was a very enigmatic and controversial personality. There are books and article written about him based on the accounts of his clients, and people that knew him and knew of him.

You can further explore the concept of ukuthwala, by accessing What is ukuthwala?, The Hummer Guy, Isilwane, Isilwane – Familiar, Formication and Amakhubalo

Safety precaution:

The use of traditional medicine in prescribed dosages will yield good results. Misuse and abuse may lead to complications. To learn about correct dosage, consult a traditional healer or a herbalist. You can also visit or email: to learn more about traditional m

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