There was jubilation aplenty. Fire-cracking was all over the place. It was that moment that comes once a year: A New Year 2016 had come.
But it seems those celebrations foretold terror and insecurity on the way. The New Year has been spattered by blood in its short corridor this far.
Our check of The Daily Times and The Nation for January shows 16 deaths published in the two newspapers. This excludes deaths caused by accidents, suicide and natural causes.
Early in January, Blantyre residents woke up to horrifying pictures that circulated on Whatsapp showing a dead man dumped in the bush in Machinjiri Township. He had his skin removed.
Around the same time, a Zingwangwa resident, Charles Chipanda, shot his wife and step son to death before shooting himself.
The dust had not settled when a watchman who had gone missing after robbers attacked his work place was also found dead in the bush in Chigumula Township. He had been beheaded and mutilated.
Days later a naked woman was found dead at a motel in Bangwe Township.
This was followed by a mentally-disturbed woman killing her three children in Mchinji.
Then news emerged that a 20-year old Sanodi Bonongwe of Traditional Authority Nthilamanja in Mulanje had killed his mother and buried her in his own bedroom.
So rare an occurrence this one was as Bonongwe killed his mother during the day, dug a pit inside his bedroom, buried her, laid his mat and slept there as if nothing happened.
Again the pictures of this incident were circulated highly on social media networks.
In another incident, a 70- year old man was murdered over allegations that he practiced witchcraft in Dedza.
Residents of Manyowe have not been spared of these notorious killings. Thugs killed a man and dumped him in sewage. Residents found the dead man while he was in a decomposed state.
In the latest cold blood murder, four elderly related women from Chimbalanga village in Traditional Authority Dambe in Neno were bludgeoned to death on allegations that they had killed their relation, a 17-year old using lightning.
The incident gripped the nation it even attracted the condemnation of President Peter Mutharika himself.
The threat of stalking murderers is still out there. While some suspects of the killings were arrested, others are still on the run as police tell the media after every incident that they are “investigating” the matter.
The murders seem to be stirring up a spirit of mob justice too.
At the beginning of this year, an angry mob torched church and property for Prophet Foster Mbale of Lilongwe over allegations that he had turned into a snake.
In Balaka, an angry mob almost manhandled a motorist for killing a boy in an accident.
So, how can all this be explained?
Secretary General for Malawi Council of Churches, Bishop Gifford Matonga, says all these acts are an indication of an increased satanic worshipping and witchcraft.
“People are killing and mutilating innocent people just like they did with albinos as they convinced by some forces that this is the key to riches. But this is not true,” he says.
Matonga urges law enforcers to ensure that they bring the culprits to book and ensure that all cases are concluded to the satisfaction of citizens.
“Churches also have a role to play. They have the responsibility of telling people that wealth is only accumulated through hard work and right means and not through human blood or body parts,” he says.
Matonga further advises: “Satan doesn’t bring anything good at all. His target is to steal, kill and destroy. Look at how he has destroyed people’s mindsets?”
Clinical psychologist at the College of Medicine, Chiwoza Bandawe, says the brutal killings and mob justice acts that have been witnessed are an indication of frustration or anger and are inspired by group dynamics.
“People tend to participate in mob justice because of the crowd mood. They get high and lose their individuality. At this moment most people are not aware of what’s going on,” he says.
Bandawe adds: “Sometimes this happens out of frustration and anger which come from social economic factors and this is taken out to a vulnerable group.”
He cites examples of anger and frustration resulting from the great depression of 1930 in United States which led to many attacks.
National Police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa, says the police have not done an investigation yet to find out why there are brutal killings.
He however observes that people have misunderstood human rights and have forgotten or are not aware of their responsibilities, hence the rise in mob justice.
“This has been observed since the inception of multiparty democracy. People believe they have maximum freedom and are taking the laws into their hands,” Gondwa says.
He further laments that people are not patient enough with the law enforcers’ work so much that they want people they suspect of wrong doing to be prosecuted immediately.
“When a person they suspect to have committed a crime is out on bail pending further investigations, people resort to beating him to death or destroy property. This is wrong,” he says.
Gondwa urges civil society organisations to join hands with the community policing wing of Malawi Police Service to conduct civic education on human rights.
The year is still too young and one can only hope that sanity will prevail so that 2016 ends with fire cracking and jubilation that mean what they really are.
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