Prayers, tears for defiled, murdered 12-yeard old

Praise Mafotetsa

Death unites.

And so on Friday, the grounds of Ntambanyama Primary School in Thyolo district had an unusual activity, one occasioned by the brutal murder of a little soul: Prayers!

There were many unusual things about this gathering.


Praise Mafotetsa used to walk these grounds, play games with friends on it and attend school assemblies on it.

Actually, on January 16, 2022, the sparkling 12-year-old walked those grounds, clutching her school bag, nurturing ambitions – like all children do.

It was a public holiday that day but she had gone to the school to attend part time classes. Praise was in Standard 8.


This was to be the last day she would attend classes.

Returning home after lessons along a four-kilometre walk home through a tea field, Praise got defiled.

And her defilers murdered her.

Her body was found in the afternoon of Tuesday January 17 dumped along Namitete River within the Kasembereka Tea Estate where his father is a supervisor.

And who located the body? Her classmates who had launched a hunt for her after she was reported missing since the previous day after classes.

On Friday, these schoolmates and her classmates were part of the crowd that gathered in the school ground.

They would be here for assembly. They would be here for break or for sport.

She would be among them in those moments, sometimes sitting next to one of them.

Today, she was not among them. She was not next to any of them. She was the reason they had gathered. It was her murder that pulled them to the ground.

The hush, one born of grief and disbelief, was palpable. One could hear a pin drop as family and community members, religious leaders, chiefs and the pupils gathered to pray for the soul of Praise – courtesy of a service organised by the Evangelical Church of Malawi (ECM) in conjunction with Ntambanyama Pastors Fraternal.

As they waited for commencement of the ceremony, Standard 8 students, Praise’s classmates, sat under a tree as if they were waiting for her to come.

It was her mother that appeared.

As she walked past the learners to take her seat, the mother, Annie Mafotetsa, looking dejected, turned her eyes on the children — as if she would spot her last born child among them.

Head teacher at the school Annie Suluma was at pains to describe what Praise’s death means to the school and the children.

She said learners are still traumatized it would take them time to heal.

“These are the pupils who found Praise’s body. Some of them have been asking me what happened to Praise and I have no answers,” Suluma said.

Member of Parliament for Thyolo-Thava Mary Navicha was in attendance. She also made a speech.

But she spent a better of her nine-minute speech wiping off tears. And that would attract a loud cry from the bereaved family and the students.

“This is one of the saddest days in my life,” she said, catching her breath.

“This is a big loss to the family. Nothing can comfort them better and I only ask God to be with the family in this trying time,” Navicha said.

In his sermon, taken from Nehemiah 6 verse 5, ECM pastor Heys Metani urged for courage and inspiration.

He asked the parents to be strong.

He asked the students to treat the tragedy as an inspiration for them to perform well in their studies to make Praise’s soul happy.

“I know that Praise will not rest in peace if you stop going to school for fear of being defiled,” Metani said.

“This is a challenge that you should take head on by working hard so that you all pass your examinations so that you give honour to Praise.

“I know that Praise had dreams and it is you who must ensure that those dreams come to pass,” Metani said.

In his speech, Group Village Head Chimbeta pleaded with the police to make sure that those behind this are punished.

“This is giving my area a bad name. In the past year we have registered two murder cases. In the first case people were even pointing fingers at me saying I knew something about the death. This is bad and those who did this should be punished,” he said.

Defilement cases are sadly becoming common in Malawi. But it is not an everyday story that a 12-year old girl is defiled and murdered.

Which is why the murder of Praise has left many puzzled, shocked and speechless.

The family is devastated, helpless that a bright star among them, is gone.

Early in the week, Praise’s father, Story Mafotetsa, told us that he was struggling to understand what could be the motive of her daughter’s defilers and killers.

“Why could my daughter go in this way? Wondered Mafotetsa.

Thyolo Police Station Deputy Public Relations Officer Rebecca Kashoti on Monday announced that they had arrested four suspects.

She identified the four as Dan Salijeni, 27, Fletcher Seleman, 24, Kilinanji Kampondeni, 26 and Andrew Salijeni 29 – all from the district.

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