Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Minister, Mary Navicha, has issued stern a warning to traditional healers and herbalists who perpetrate violence towards the elderly in the country.
So far, some nine elderly persons have been murdered in cold blood over witchcraft allegations across the country since last year.
Navicha was reacting to recent incidents in Karonga and Chitipa districts where five elderly persons were killed separately on witchcraft allegations after being implicated by witchdoctors.
Two weeks ago, a young man beat up to death a woman suspecting that she was bewitching his mother who was ill in Mangochi District.
In November 2018, a mob killed 78-year-old Dickson Thomas from M’njeza Village and his 69-year-old wife Veronica Semion from Mataya Village, both from Traditional Authority (T/A) Nthondo in Ntchisi District following the death of Tanazio Ephraim at Ntchisi Hospital after he had suffered from headache which the mob connected to witchcraft.
A few weeks earlier, police arrested Paul Kamwetsa, 32, for allegedly hacking two elderly persons to death at Nseula Village, T/A Dambe, Neno District on allegation that they were behind the death of Kamwetsa’s 17-year-old brother.
Navicha yesterday said her ministry was collaborating with the police and other ministries to ensure that that the long arm of the law catches up with perpetrators of such cases of violence.
She reiterated that traditional beliefs are not meant to come in conflict with people’s rights, including the right to life and peaceful existence of the elderly.
“As a ministry, we are aware that traditional doctors and herbalists are, to an extent, fueling these barbaric acts. Our message to such perpetrators is that their work has to be properly guided by the law and that is why we are working tirelessly with the ministries of Justice and Health, among others, to map the way forward on how that portfolio can be censored and monitored,” Navicha said.
She then called on the police to arrest all suspects.
The minister’s warning comes after Paramount Chief Kyungu, through Karonga-Chitipa Heritage, condemned the mob justice targeting the elderly, expressing fear that such patterns of violence stand to turn Karonga and Chitipa into lawless districts.
Writing in a statement, the Paramount Chief, whose reign extends across the two districts, has asked his subjects to report witchdoctors whose exorcisms lead to such barbaric acts.
“These acts of violence have no place in our society and we must guard against them taking a foothold in our midst. We also encourage the [members of the] community to report witchdoctors, whose exorcisms lead to such deaths, to the police and any relevant authorities who must deal with them to the full extent of the law,” Kyungu’s statement reads.
But speaking separately, Karonga District Peace Committee Chairperson, Anne Mzumara, yesterday said there was need to fully support activities of the peace committees across the country and urged Parliament to approve the establishment of the National Peace Commission.
“We are working hard to sensitising communities but the current political instability is not helping matters. We have a lot of activities but we are financially challenged. We get funds through the National Peace Architecture but it is not enough,” Mzumara said.
On November 20 2018, the Malawi Network for Older Persons’ Organisatuon Executive Director, Andrew Kavala, said the attacks on the elderly were contrary to Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that no one shall be subjected to torture cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.