The High Court has set free 66-year-old Eliza Davison whose case was brought to the court for appeal after a magistrate’s court convicted and sentenced her to two years imprisonment for admitting to practicing witchcraft.
The Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) appealed against Davison’s sentence given by the Mulanje Third Grade Magistrate’s Court last August.
Chreaa said it believed that Davison, who comes from Mbewa Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mabuka in Mulanje, pleaded guilty to the charges out of ignorance since some of the country’s laws conflict one another on the matter.
In his ruling made on May 23 2017, High Court Judge Maclean Kamwambe said the magistrate’s court lacked jurisdiction to try the matter because the maximum sentences of offences to be tried by such courts was three years and the maximum sentence of the charge Davison was answering is 10 years imprisonment.
He, therefore, quashed the conviction and set aside the sentence.
Said Kamwambe: “I agree with the State that it would not be proper at this stage to order a retrial. The appellant [Davison] has spent almost half of the sentence in custody which is enough to teach her a lesson.”
Reacting to the judgement, Chreaa executive director Victor Chagunyuka Mhango expressed pleasure with the judgement, saying that ‘finally’ Davison has accessed justice.
He said: “This highlights the importance of poor people having legal representation at all stages of the criminal justice system which includes investigations, arrest, pre-trial, detention and bail hearings in addition to trial and appeal process.”
On August 15 last year, the Mulanje Third Grade Magistrate’s Court, under section 6 of the Witchcraft Act, convicted and sentenced Davison to two years after she admitted that, through magic, she inserted an insect at the throat of her 25-year-old grandson to stop him from eating or drinking water. n