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Death sentence for albino killer

By Peter Kanjere:

The High Court sitting in Thyolo on Friday made a landmark ruling, sentencing to death a 28-year-old man who killed a 19-year-old person with albinism in the tea-growing district on January 10 2017.

In his judgement, Justice Maclean Kamwambe, said he meted out the stiff sentence to Willard Mikaele, who pleaded guilty to the killing of Mphatso Pensulo, because such an act dents the image of Malawi and instils fear among persons with albinism.

“The motive behind the killing was as devilish as it is primitive. I want to agree with the State that death sentence is appropriate as it reflects a sense of justice in the circumstances,” Kamwambe said in his ruling.

“The public will feel relieved with such a sentence after so much anxiety. A message should be sent to would-be offenders that once arrested, they should expect stern punishment of death. This court thus imposes a death sentence to Willard Mikaele as provided by the law of the land.”

There are estimated 10,000 persons with albinism in Malawi.

However, despite the court’s judgement, its execution is subject to Malawi President Peter Mutharika signing it.

Agnes Patemba, High Court of Malawi and Supreme Court of Appeal registrar, Sunday said since the reign of Bakili Muluzi, no Malawi leader has signed a death sentence.

“It does not affect us in any way. We have done our part. The ball is in the court of the Executive,” Patemba said.

Association for Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) Vice-Chairperson, Pamela Juma, Sunday said they welcomed the court’s judgement.

“Courts are independent and they pass judgement based on the evidence. For Apam, we respect the laws of this country. If the sentence was given based on the law, we just say let justice prevail,” Juma said.

Mikaele, a barber at Sandamu area in the district, had invited Pensulo to his house at Mulonda Village Traditional Authority Nsabwe in Thyolo then strangled him to death while acting on earlier instructions from a witchdoctor he met in neighbouring Mozambique.

The witchdoctor had advised Mikaele to kill a person with albinism and report to him if he wanted to get rich.

After killing Pensulo, Mikaele locked his house before rushing to Mozambique to report the heinous act to the witchdoctor.

Neighbours who had heard the screams of Pensulo, broke the house and retrieved his body before reporting the matter to police who eventually arrested the suspect while he was still holed up in Mozambique.

Malawi is struggling with rising cases of the killing and abductions of persons with albinism.

Some 24 persons with albinism have been killed and over 160 attacks reported since 2014

Body tissues of persons of albinism are viewed as charms for rituals that can make one rich.

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