Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have written Inspector General (IG) of Police George Kainja asking his office to immediately act on continued killings of the elderly on accusations of witchcraft.
It follows the brutal murder of Estele Chigule, 76, at Fumbwa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Tambala in Dedza over witchcraft accusations. She joins several others murdered this year, and 46 who were brutally murdered last year.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of People (Cedep) and Youth and Society (YAS) have since written Kainja, stating that while arrests have been made, very few have resulted in trials and convictions.
Reads the letter in part: “As human rights organisations, we are dismayed by the lack of progress on the part of the police and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in taking these cases forward to trial.
“Considering the brutality of these crimes, we had expected police and the DPP to act expeditiously to arrest and bring perpetrators to justice so as to deter others who might be inclined to commit similar crimes in future. We would greatly appreciate your kind support by sending us your response within seven days.”
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Network of Older Persons Organisations (Manepo) executive director Andrew Kavala urged police to immediately arrest and prosecute those involved in these heinous acts.
He said: “We hold it that escalation of abuse, discrimination and even killings of older persons can be explained by continued failure by law enforcement agencies to prosecute those who accuse older men and women of practising witchcraft.
“The uncoordinated responses at various levels of the justice administrative system and the absence of structured community support systems continue to make Malawi one of the worse countries for one to grow old in Africa.”
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said they have since arrested three principal suspects who will answer murder charges.
Earlier, CHRR acting executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said the problem is worsened by delays in access to justice.
First grade magistrate Julius Kalambo from Karonga said delays in determining cases emanates from various challenges, including staff shortages.
He said: “The delay normally is due to pressure of work, or maybe the magistrate is out, or prosecutors are not bringing witnesses in time.”
Section 16 of the Constitution of Malawi states that every person has the right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.
Section 19 (3) of the same Constitution states that no person shall be subjected to torture of any kind or to inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
Under Section 8 of the Witchcraft Act (1968) the profession or calling of witch finder or witchdoctor is declared illegal and every person exercising or pretending to exercise such calling or profession shall be guilty of felony and shall be liable to imprisonment for life.