I want to delve into something which is gradually turning our country into a State of lawlessness—mob justice. I have watched and read how oftentimes suspected criminals are bruised and tortured to death by an irate mob that feels the suspect deserves the harshest punishment.
The mobs take upon themselves, illegally, to dispense justice without giving the suspect the right to defend themselves. Suspected criminals are frequently spanked to death; stripped naked and lynched with stones. Elsewhere in the country some suspects have been set able.
Apart from lives being lost, there are times when various properties have been damaged or destroyed by an angry mob which feels it has the right to administer justice.
Only last Wednesday, I came across a social media post that talked about how irate people in Chiputula in Mzuzu have destroyed and burnt a house and a car belonging to one Margaret Mkandawire, an accountant with Mzuzu Technical College.
I read the post twice before it hit me that I know someone by that name, and is my cousin. At first, I didn’t believe the post. Then the journalist in me quickly kicked in. I picked up my phone and called Maggie, as we fondly call her, to verify the story. To my surprise, she didn’t even say hello. In a very low tone, almost whispering, she answered; “Ehe”. I had to re-introduce my name to her before she screamed, “akulu!” (my sister!).
I asked her about what I had heard from the grapevine. She confirmed it was true that people had demolished a brick fence, ransacked the house and had gone away with whatever they could lay their hands on. They had also burnt her car to ashes. She said she was in hiding because the irate mob was still baying for her blood. I couldn’t believe it.
When I asked her why? She said, initially, they claimed it was because her brick fence had blocked a pathway. However, she explained that she has been engaging with the city authorities and the community on the matter. According to the city map, which the authorities confirmed, the pathway was not on the council’s map and it is for this reason that when she bought the land, it stretched to the pathway. It wasn’t an authorised path.
But she said she heard the mob shout that they suspect she is a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member—as if this is a crime, and that she congregates at Shepherd Bushiri’s church—her constitutionally guaranteed freedom of worship. Meaning that the fence issue was just a front for the mob to carry out its terror on her.
In the past months, since the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations started, thugs disguised as freedom fighters, have been causing havoc and, in many instances, taking the law into their own hands.
Mobs pretend to punish one crime while on the other hand committing even greater crimes.
I believe that those who engage in mob justice are ignorant of the law and fundamental human rights. One does not need to be a legal expert to know that a person is considered innocent until he/she is proven guilty and that everyone has a right to defend themselves in a court of law.
I am in no way saying people should steal, kill and be let scot-free, no. People should let institutions and public bodies entrusted with the task of dispensing justice to perform their duties accordingly.
Occasionally, the justice system leaves a lot to be desired and so does that security agencies. But, none of this justifies taking the law into one’s own hands. We live in a democratic country founded and established on the rule of law and the principles of human dignity.
They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, but they surely get to their destination. Remember that two wrongs don’t make a right.