The High Court in Mzuzu says the order stopping herbalists from operating in the country will only become effective after it is published or broadcast in the local media for seven consecutive days.
This is according to the substituted service order granted by the High Court Registry in Mzuzu on Thursday following an application by three Mzuzu residents—Evans Mponda, Osward Phiri and Mary Nyirenda.
The trio, through their lawyer George Kadzipatike, wanted the court to grant them permission to publish the earlier court order in newspapers as a means of serving all traditional healers, witchdoctors, charm producers, distributors and fortune tellers in the country.
The lawyer said it was not practical to contact each and every herbalist in the country in person.
But, according to the substituted service order signed by High Court assistant registrar Dick Sankhulani, service of the order shall be effected when the injunction is published in the country’s two newspapers of high readership and broadcast on two radio stations with high listenership.
Reads the order: “Service of the order of injunction and the originating summons shall be effected though publication in two newspapers of high readership in Malawi and also on radio stations of high listenership in Malawi.
“Such publication shall be made through the above media for seven consecutive days. Service shall be deemed effected at the expiration of seven days from the last date of publication as above specified.”
On Wednesday, Kadzipatike obtained the injunction from the High Court in Mzuzu on the basis that, among others, herbalists are fuelling the attacks on individuals with albinism as well as making false claims, thereby duping the public.
The sued parties are traditional doctors Masamba Asiyana Mwale and Apite Apitana Chiwaya in their personal capacities and representing a class of all traditional healers, witchdoctors, charm producers, distributors and fortune tellers in the country.
Media houses Nation Publications Limited (NPL) and Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) are second and third defendants, respectively, for carrying adverts that attract people to visit the traditional doctors (the first defendants); hence, assisting them to achieve their goals.
In granting the injunction, High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise said any person who disobeys the order shall be guilty of contempt of court and may be imprisoned, fined or have their assets seized.
In an interview yesterday, Kadzipatike said his clients may consider to write an order of variation to reduce the number of days for the advertisement.
He said: “The injunction is a bundle of documents. To place adverts for seven days in newspapers and radios may cost us over K5 million (about $7 300). My clients may not afford to raise that sum of money. Interested parties or persons of goodwill may come forward to assist.”
Malawi has recorded 17 murders of people with albinism since January last year and 66 cases of abductions and other related crimes.
Some quarters, just like in Tanzania, Burundi and Mozambique where the attacks are believed to have originated, suspect that body parts of individuals with albinism are essential ingredients for magic concoctions.
However, one of the herbalists who usually places adverts in local newspapers, Jimmy Mbewe, said there is no evidence to prove that herbalists are the root cause of the attacks.
“Interested stakeholders should first of all establish the real market for albino body parts rather than making wild claims.
“There is no evidence that we are behind the attacks. They are taking us as a scapegoat instead of investigating the real market of these body parts,” he said.
In their affidavits, the three say they been victimised by the traditional doctors in various ways and were subjected to mental torture, anguish and hopelessness.
Phiri said he has a nine-year-old cousin with albinism and fears for his life amid increased abductions, killings and harassment of people with albinism in the country.
Reads the affidavit: “Being a guardian and next friend of his cousin, the second plaintiff has found out and verily believes that all the killings are stemming from first class of defendants [witch doctors] who prescribe to their good for nothing and lazy clients bodily parts of albinos to form part of concoctions which can boost businesses, generate money miraculously…”
Nyirenda claims that Chiwaya assured her that she would get back pieces of her stolen property and that her lover, who had abandoned her, would return within a week once she bought charms valued at K50 000. She said she never got the desired results three months down the line.
Mponda, on the other hand, said he never got healed from an ailment when he sought help from Mwale and paid him K120 000 after being attracted by adverts from the media.