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Horror in Neno

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Hundreds of grief-stricken mourners Tuesday gathered at Group Village Head (GVH) Chimbalanga in Traditional Authority Dambe in Neno to pay their last respects to four elderly people who were brutally murdered on Monday on suspicion that they killed a 17-year-old girl using lightning.

The four deceased elderly people, who were all related, were buried on Tuesday alongside their granddaughter Flora Kanjete who was struck to death by lightning.

According to GVH Chimbalanga, the four elderly people were allegedly killed by some of their own relatives for allegedly having a hand in the death of the girl.

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Speaking during the funeral ceremony, GVH Chimbalanga advised the people not to take the law into their own hands but to consult first before taking action.

“As a leader, I am really shocked with the death of these people because it has never happened in the history of this village. Not even once have we ever had a man killed in this village.

“Let’s take this as a lesson to always consult the police and even chiefs before doing things that we may regret in future,” he said.

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Neno Police spokesperson, Raphael Kaliati, said postmortem results showed the four died due to severe beatings.

“We have not yet arrested anyone in connection to the murders but we will question the relatives and, hopefully, we will get to the bottom of the story,” he said.

According to the police, the villagers had been suspecting that the four grandparents; Eliza Kanjete, 86, Elenafa Kanjete, 76, Byson Kanjete, 73, and Idesi Kanjete, 69, were witches and the ‘mysterious’ death of the girl after being struck by lightning was the last straw.

When the girl died at noon on Monday, the angry villagers stormed the homes of the four old people and beat them up using various weapons.

“There was chaos. Some villagers tried to rescue the elderly but they were overpowered by the angry mob. The sympathisers were also beaten up and one of them sustained serious injuries and is admitted to Neno hospital. There would have been more deaths if we had not arrived quickly,” Kaliati said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Gender, Disability, Elderly and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati described the killings as inhuman, considering that the act was based on mere speculations and that the people took the law into their hands.

“Our Penal Code doesn’t recognise witchcraft and I wonder why these people decided to take the law into their own hands. This is a criminal offence,” she said.

The minister also said that the country needs old people because they are custodians of culture and they transfer skills from one generation to the other.

National Coordinator for Malawi Network of Older Person’s Organisations (Manepo), Andrew Kavala, also condemned the act, stressing that old age does not bring with it witchcraft.

“Old age doesn’t mean that one should lose their dignity. This should be discouraged in its strongest terms and our organisation will ensure that perpetrators are brought to book and rot in jail,” he said.

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