President Peter Mutharika has appealed for calm as his administration works to get to the bottom of the alleged “bloodsuckers” saga that has stirred tension and panic in affected districts.
The President’s plea in Phalombe yesterday came amid tension and fear that has gripped affected areas in Phalombe, Mulanje, Thyolo, Chiradzulu and parts of Nsanje following reports of alleged bloodsuckers attacking people.
Yesterday, like he did in Mulanje on Friday, the President heard testimonies from seven people who either claimed to have been attacked by irate mobs or alleged vampires. Those giving testimonies included chiefs who had their property destroyed by mobs suspecting them of harbouring the bloodsuckers.
Mutharika said he was personally concerned with the bloodsuckers issue that is causing unrest among people in affected areas.
He said his administration will continue protecting the people from the alleged bloodsuckers and that it will get to the bottom of it.
Said the President: “We will get to the bottom of it and we will deal with it. We have deployed both civilian and uniformed police officers to beef up security in the affected areas and we will continue to do so. But it is also important that if once caught, suspects must be taken to police who should do their work and not necessarily taking the law into your own hands.”
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa also expressed concern on the negative impact that the story of the alleged bloodsuckers has brought to the affected communities.
He said: “This has interrupted developmental activities because as we have recently witnessed, donors are pulling out of the affected areas which is not good.”
Taking his turn, Paramount Chief Ngolongoliwa assured the President that within two weeks, something miraculous will happen as the chiefs are also trying hard to protect the people.
He said: “Sangachoke uko ndimasenga kubwera kuno. Ife tilibe masenga? Sitingalole ena kuzatiulukila kuno. Bwana mumva uku two weeks kuti ndege zagwa. [We will deal with them. Within two weeks, you will learn that their [bloodsuckers’] ‘planes’ have been shot down].”
The President’s sentiments on the bloodsuckers, coming after some people have been killed on suspicion that they were bloodsuckers or harbouring some and about 31 arrested in connection with the attacks, is in sharp contrast to what two of his Cabinet ministers said last week when they dismissed the issue as a “myth” and blamed it on the opposition parties and civil society organisations (CSOs).
Speaking when he addressed a campaign rally in Lilongwe’s Area 23 last week, the President said he had learnt with concern about the rumours and their impact on the suspects and their property.
During an October 4 2017 media briefing in Lilongwe on the issue, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi and Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa failed to explain how government planned to contain the situation.
Instead, the ministers pushed the blame on opposition parties and CSOs. They also described the bloodsuckers as ‘mythical’ and appealed for “concerted effort” to deal with the situation.
This is not the first time people have been attacked and killed based on some beliefs and the issue of bloodsuckers has a long history in Malawi.
In early 2000s, the media was awash with stories of bloodsuckers, which affected almost the same districts under attack this time around. The country has also seen the killing of people with albinism on suspicion that their bones are worth a lot of money.