Almost two years after his release from prison, the famed Nsanje ‘hyena’, Eric Aniva says he wants to sue government for jailing him over what he calls a cultural norm.
Aniva first shot to fame for his “hyena man” antics that saw him confessing to have had sex with at least 100 girls and women in traditional cleansing rituals when he was HIV positive, a move which the Nsanje Principal Magistrates’ Court then found the practice “harmful”.
The 54-year-old also confirmed during his court hearing that he had been involved in the practice since 1985, with clients parting with K5 000 to K10 000 for his services.
However, in an interview, recently, Aniva felt justice was not served and that it was time to rectify the abnormality.
“Upon my conviction and my consequent sentencing, my lawyer promised me that he would fight on for my case. I am yet to see any progress to the case up until today. However, the truth remains that I was wrongly jailed,” he said.
Aniva also called for well-wishers to take up the case; maintaining his argument that he did not commit any crime.
He said: “I mean, I was jailed for fulfilling my cultural duties. Since when has following what culture dictates become a crime?”
In the aftermath of his release from prison, Aniva formed his own HIV and Aids support group that aims at raising awareness of the disease in his new home area Ngabu in Chikwawa.
Originally, he comes from Chimphwembe, Senior Chief Malemia in Nsanje.
“I am literally struggling to promote my initiative which I strongly believe can help inspire positive behavioural changes in many communities. Besides, I need support because I can barely support myself. Things have never been easy for me since my release,” he complained.
Meanwhile, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare
Patricia Kaliati said government was ready to square up with Aniva in court again.Patricia Kaliati said government
Sounding defiant as ever, the minister said they have engaged lawyers to defend women rights, even on pro bono basis. She argued government is now taking issues of gender-based violence seriously.
“Just as it is with anyone else, women too have sexual rights. They actually have a right to choose who they sleep with. However, our argument is that people should not hide behind culture for personal gratification. Not in this democratic era we are in right now,” she said.
However, Aniva’s saga continues to split opinion, with some still feeling he was just used as a scapegoat.
According to Michael Dansa from Aniva’s village, issues of natural justice were not followed in the case.
“If the issue was just, why were the women not questioned for their part? What about their relatives who would connive with the ‘hyena man’ to offer his services in the respective families? What happened to the issue of hearing both sides before judging?” he queried.
However, Senior Chief Malemia insisted that Aniva’s acts were inexcusable.
“I support people’s rights to seek court redress when they feel their rights have been violated. The court convicted Aniva depending on both the law and his offence. Why, I mean, should someone be called a ‘hyena’ in the first place,” he said.
Malema added that chiefs, being the custodians of culture, should not promote violations of human rights.
He said: “In any cultural set-up, traditional leaders are there to promote various aspects peculiar to the people such as food, dressing, language and even dances. Not some of these ill practices.”
The court convicted Aniva of the crime on November 22 2016, though he kept pleading not guilty.
Defence lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta then asked for court leniency over the matter, arguing the saga had brought enough shame to Aniva’s life.