Hon Folks, global pressure to uphold the sanctity of life made Kamuzu Banda’s successors champions of the global campaign against the death sentence.
They all denied the hangman a job, rendering the death chambers at Zomba Maximum Security Prison desolate and abandoned. The walls may be moss-infested and the floor probably covered in slimy undergrowth.
Over 20 years of neglect may have greatly compromised the turgidity of the noose. If government were to bring back the death penalty for murderers of people with albinism, as some MPs and civil society leaders have angrily demanded, will it require a separate budget for the ropes and the hangman’s salary?
I hear the hangman used to be an expatriate in Dr. Banda’s time. Will it be an expatriate again this time or there’s now local capacity to send the condemned to their Maker on kwacha terms?
By the way, will the death sentence apply selectively to killers of people with albinism only or will it also apply to other murder convicts?
The other day we heard about jerks in Mwanza who, probably after getting high on something, bundled four people who fitted a folk-tale description of a witch and shamelessly turned them into a 21st century burnt offering. Don’t these also deserve a death sentence?
I hear one of the champions of the death sentence for killers of people with albinism is an MCP MP, a party that has already churned out treason suspects. Will the death sentence, if reinstated, skirt around victims of intolerance to dissenting views which, the 21 years of the multiparty system have taught us, are easily accused of treason, a crime which, like killing, attracts a death penalty?
While the senseless murder of fellow humans for their organs—it used to be women and children in Chiradzulu, now its people living with albinism—should naturally invoke anger in peace-loving and law-abiding Malawians, death sentence is best tamed by allowing it to rest in peace in its grave.
Exhuming it for purposes of scaring away murderers of people with albinism does not guarantee that it won’t destroy anything else we value and cherish—including our freedoms and rights—in its wake.
It’s hard to point a country on the map of the globe where capital punishment is upheld and used objectively and equitably. Power which fallible humans acquire to decide whose death sentence to execute is not blind to the fact that equality of the human race is an ideal to aspire for, far from reality in the world we are living in.
In Malawi, although the gallows haven’t been used ever since we moved to a multi-party system of government, removing the death sentence from the statutes has proved equally difficult. There are probably just as many people who would like to see it retained as there are people who would like to see it repealed.
The equilibrium has so far been on having the death sentence retained in the laws while allowing trend to raise the barrier of invocation for our elected leaders. That way, it may take something totally out of the ordinary, for a State President to sign a death warrant and become the first one to allow for the use of the gallows since Kamuzu.
What other options are there for protecting people living with albinism? First, there ought to be a campaign to restore our umunthu. The golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” must be propagated not just in Churches but on the political arena as well.
The spirit that drives a person to see a fellow human as a means to amassing wealth is the same spirit that drives the youth to sharpen panga-knives for hacking, maiming and even killing enemies of their political masters. It is also the same spirit that drives people to fleece the country of its meagre resources through Cashgate without regard to the untold suffering their anti-social behaviour inflicts on fellow Malawians who are deprived of public services.
Where there’s no umunthu, people’s actions are informed by the question: what’s in it for me as opposed to what’s in it for us.
Second, as a society, working together and with the support of the police and other law enforcers, we should aim to raise the risks for killing anybody and get away with it. In fact it should the risk for breaking the law and get away with it.
The alliance between the police and communities in fighting crime should be taken to a higher level. That will require the police rising above partisan interests. It also requires depoliticising community policing. This should be done side by side with the review of law to ensure that heinous crimes are not treated with kid gloves.n