Irate villagers from Malema in Karonga’s ‘Benghazi’ area on Friday attacked three British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) journalists and three other members of their crew on suspicion that they were bloodsuckers.
According to one of the crew members [name withheld], the villagers were armed with pangas, axes and other dangerous weapons.
The crew was beaten up, stoned, and had one of its vehicles extensively damaged during the fracas. All their equipment, he said, had been confiscated by the villagers, but most of it was recovered yesterday.
The crew member said they endured the mob for about five hours, before Karonga Central legislator Frank Mwenifumbo talked to a local chief to rescue the six.
“It is the same issue that troubled the country last year, where some people were suspected to be bloodsuckers, and these people thought we were bloodsuckers.
“Each one of us was beaten up and stoned. At some point, I thought that was the end of us. I thought it was time to die, but honourable Mwenifumbo made some calls that helped to rescue us,” he said.
According to the crew member, the fracas started at around 6pm and only normalised at around 11pm.
The foreign journalists, he added, were still frightened as of yesterday, and the future of their project is uncertain.
“I don’t know if we will continue with the project. I think we will have to get a word from London on the same. You must also know that the police did not come to the area for our rescue,” added the crew member.
Karonga Police deputy spokesperson George Mulewa confirmed the incident and said the law enforcers were investigating the matter.
Meanwhile, Nyika Media Club (NMC), a grouping of journalists in the Northern Region, has criticised the attack in a statement released yesterday.
“NMC would like to call on government and other development partners—both local and international—to invest in civic education in all districts, so that Malawi wipes out this unbecoming belief.
“NMC would also like to deplore the delayed response from law enforcers. Life of a human being should always be prioritised, especially where it is on the verge of being eliminated,” the NMC statement reads in part.
The attack on the journalists happened just 24 hours after police in the district rescued Robert Mwangolera, 67, and 66-year-olds Ketness Nambera and Sofia Namanda from the neighbouring Mwangolera Village, on suspicion of practising witchcraft.
Their houses were set ablaze, while livestock and other property worth millions of kwacha were stolen, according to Mulewa.
He said: “A man from Mwangolera Village died on January 2 2018. Some people in the village suspected that the deceased was bewitched by Mwangolera and his friends.
“The fracas erupted after villagers mobilised themselves to kill the suspected people. Property, including livestock, has been stolen while some houses were burnt to ashes.”
Last October, about 140 people were arrested by police in connection with the blood suckers phenomenon, which started in Mulanje in September where irate villagers took the law in their hands.
In total, 10 people were killed on suspicion that they were linked with alleged blood suckers in Mulanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Nsanje, Chiradzulu and Blantyre districts.