In the past weeks, the country has witnessed a series of violent incidents in some districts. Regrettably, some lives have been lost while others have been left for dead—with serious injuries.
In Nkhata Bay, two men were killed on August 30 while 52 houses were burnt following a fracas that broke between two villages—Chinganga and Hanambo— in Nkhole area.
Nkhata Bay Police Station public relations officer Kondwani James confirmed the incident and identified the deceased as Seti Nkhoma. 35, of Chinganga Village and Levi Banda, 70, of Hanambo Village, both from Traditional Authority (T/A) Fukakamalaza.
In the same month, another fracas left some people dead in Dowa while many houses were demolished.
According to Dowa police spokesperson Gladson M’bumpha, this was as a result of unfounded witchcraft allegations.
M’bumpha said by then, the station had recorded three cases, this year alone, related to acts of violence ignited by witchcraft allegations.
“During the fracas two people were killed and their property burnt. In another incident, angry villagers destroyed property belonging to some families after accusing them of witchcraft,” he said.
Similar incidents took place in Mulanje where people of Duswa Village went on rampage following alleged mysterious death of a 20–year–old man.
The deceased’s body stayed for days before being buried as angry family members and others forced those alleged to have had a hand in the death to bring him back to life.
During the fracas, six elderly people were assaulted; thanks to police who took them to Mulanje District Hospital for treatment. Sadly, one of them died later.
Police also protected five children who fell victim to the fracas.
Apart from assaulting the elderly people, the mob also pelted stones at a police unit at Mimosa, breaking window glasses in the process.
Much as people are taking the law into their own hands over witchcraft allegations, the country’s laws do not recognise witchcraft.
The Witchcraft Act, for example, stipulates that it is an offence to allege that someone practices witchcraft.
Further, the act criminalises anyone for claiming that he practises witchcraft. In this case, one is charged for pretending (to practice) witchcraft.
Furthermore, the profession of a witchdoctor or witchfinder is an offence punishable by life imprisonment.
Reacting to mob justice, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera condemned the tendency.
In a statement released on September 1 2020, he expressed concern at the disregard for the law by those propagating violence,
“The Malawi Police Service strongly condemns this uncivilised behaviour and warns that all individuals who have had a hand in the above cited incidents will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly,” read the statement, in part.
Kadadzera advised people to use dialogue in sorting out their differences, as opposed to fights.
In an interview, Association for Secular Humanism (ASH), executive director George Thindwa expressed sadness at the continued violence against children and the elderly in the name of witchcraft.
He urged people to stop this malpractice, warning that: “In Malawi, the rule of law is paramount”.
“It is sad that we still witness violence against children and the elderly based on witchcraft allegations. This should not happen in Malawi where the rule of law is paramount.”
He added that those perpetrating the vice must stop or face the law.
Thindwa appealed to Malawians to follow the law, saying Malawi is a democratic State that promotes the rule of law.
“To accuse someone of witchcraft is a crime punishable by five years imprisonment,” he warned.
It was against this background that during the opening of a three-day workshop for Community Victim Support Units (CVSUs) at Luchenza, Officer-in-Charge for Mulanje Police Edwin Magalasi spoke against the ills of violence.
He observed that following a spate of attacks on the elderly on suspicion that they are practising witchcraft, there was need to consider protecting such people as is the case with children.
“While protecting children, let us not forget our grandparents who are subjected to all sorts of violence on allegations that they are witches or wizards,” he said.
Violence does not solve problems. Instead, it only leads to more problems, especially for the most vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.
Many have been injured or died due to acts of violence.
Property has also been damaged due to violence emanating from witchcraft allegations.
Can’t we do better as a nation purported to be peace-loving? Many believe we can.