Of late, there have been several cases of mob justice where dozens of lives have been lost. Apparently, Malawians do not have confidence in the Malawi Police Service (MPS) anymore and would rather exact punishments on perceived criminals on their own.
The popular argument is that once suspected criminals have been arrested by the police, the progress of their cases become blurred and at the end, the suspects are released without facing justice.
So residents are descending on suspected criminals like nobody’s business and there is no sign that the trend will end any time soon.
Mdzukulu, the truth about mob justice is that it has never been better justice. Not everyone who has fallen victim to this kind of justice was indeed a criminal.
Even if they were criminals, killing them is not the best thing they have to experience.
Of course, it is true that some criminals perpetually engage in their acts despite having been warned several times that they risk being killed.
Mdzukulu, in fact there are criminals who attack their victims in horrible manners such that one would be justified that they should be punished in similar manners.
But didn’t Mahatma Gandhi say an eye for an eye will only make the world blind?
Yet again, a question arises: What should people do with those criminals who have no regard for human life but are left scot free the moment they get into the hands of law enforcers?
That is where escalating cases of mob justice should be a concern of MPS more than anyone else because, according to those who engage in such acts, they do that after getting convinced that the police will not help them at all.
It is a controversial issue, Mdzukulu.
But it is attacks on elderly persons which should be condemned in strongest terms. Of course, they border on beliefs and it becomes difficult to change the mindset of someone who believes any ‘sudden’ death is unnatural.
There have been several reports of elderly people being hacked to death after being accused of practising witchcraft.
Herbalists are often at the centre of everything as they are the ones who ‘point out’ who is responsible for a particular ‘mysterious’ death.
Without seeking further evidence, relatives of the deceased, assisted by other community members, descend on the herbalist’s suspects, and kill them.
And what we are getting from the Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare is a mere warning to herbalists that they should operate within the law.
Mdzukulu, attacks on the elderly who are being accused of practising witchcraft should be treated as a crisis. A life is one too many and it is absurd that we are not hearing much from authorities about how they are dealing the heinous attacks.
In fact, it was even the case with attacks on persons with albinism where a whole minister told the nation they had not yet reached crisis levels.
We are a strange people. Whenever there is something that requires urgent attention and action, we often relax and let it pass with time. Truth is that it just hibernates and returns in full force later.
On witchcraft, the laws are very clear that just calling someone a witch is a criminal offence. Why don’t we apply that law?
Why should elderly people live in perpetual fear of being hacked to death simply because of their age which should otherwise be celebrated?
Some of these things just require more awareness in communities. For instance, there are several non-communicable diseases which are killing quietly but most people, especially those in rural areas, have no clue about them.
Let our people know about these. They are not mysterious. They are common these days due to our lifestyles. They kill even those who may look healthy and strong.
There should be enough civic education on such diseases so that people prevent them or accept deaths that occur due to them.