Civil society organisations (CSOs) have called for the protection of elderly groups following revelations that over 15 elderly people were brutally murdered in 2020 on allegations of witchcraft, adding on to 46 others killed in 2019 on similar accusations.
The latest case on December 27 2020 involved the killing of Esinala Mbowe, 67, in Karonga on allegations that she bewitched her 37-year-old son Patrick Chitete.
The CSOs, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of People (Cedep), Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Karonga Diocese and Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP, have since raised alarm over the continued killings of the elderly on witchcraft allegations.
In a joint statement, CCJP desk officer for Karonga Louis Nkhata and Church and Society executive director Moses Mkandawire asked the police and other relevant government institutions to act swiftly and decisively in arrest the culprits in the killing of Mbowe and other victims.
They also called on traditional leaders to protect the elderly, describing them as the weakest among all vulnerable groups.
Reads the statement in part: “Memories are still fresh when Karonga District witnessed its most brutal killings of five elderly people on witchcraft allegations at Lupembe on 27th December 2019. The killers of the five are still free.
“Reports indicate that in 2020 alone, a total of 15 elderly people have been gruesomely butchered nationwide on witchcraft accusations; most of them being elderly women. We reflect on these incidents with great sadness as killing of human beings stand contrary to our human conscience.”
In a separate joint statement earlier, CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and his Cedep counterpart Gift Trapence said the killing of Mbowe is a stark reminder of government’s failure to protect older people from killings based on witchcraft allegations.
CHRR and Cedep have since urged the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to improve coordination so that investigations can be concluded and the cases committed to the High Court for expeditious trial.
Meanwhile, Karonga Police deputy spokesperson Frank Black has said investigations are underway to arrest those involved in Mbowe’s brutal killing.
“Police in the district would like to remind people that mob justice is not justification for murder. Therefore, anyone found taking part in mob justice will face the law. Police further wishes to inform people that being old does not mean someone is a witch or a wizard,” he said.
First grade magistrate Julius Kalambo of Karonga told The Nation in November during a capacity building workshop with CHRR and Cedep that delays in determination of cases emanates from various issues.
He said: “The delay normally results from pressure of work. Sometimes the magistrate is out, or prosecutors are not bringing witnesses in time. We have been equipped, we will prioritise them.”
With support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, CHRR and Cedep are working across 20 traditional authorities in 10 districts to address violence on the basis of witchcraft accusations through awareness raising, advocacy, capacity building and systematic human rights monitoring, documentation and reporting.