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We cannot be barbaric forever

With Tsibweni Chalo:

One of the most horrible effects of witchcraft accusations in Malawi was the brutal murder of four elderly people in January 2017 in Traditional Authority Dambe, Neno District.

They were murdered after being accused of killing a 17-year-old girl using lightning. A mob, angered by the apparent killing of the girl, attacked the four—the oldest being 86 years old—and brutally murdered them.

The talk that followed the brutal murder quickly died away and other elderly people continued being targets of attacks which leave some dead.

Up to now, the law which guides issues to do with witchcraft is the old one which some quarters argue leaves room for the persecution of people who accuse others of practising witchcraft.

Another challenge is that those trying to protect others who are accused of practising witchcraft end up being victims for apparently siding with evil people.

Mdzukulu, not long ago, over 20 houses were razed down in Nkhotakota District by a mob that suspected one elderly man to be a witch. The attack extended to others.

While issues of witchcraft are controversial, killing someone after suspecting them of practising witchcraft is simply barbaric and should not be condoned in this country.

We need to be decisive as a country and find ways of dealing with the attacks on persons suspected to be practising witchcraft.

In fact, the attacks on persons with albinism are related to witchcraft as some strange characters believe such people have magical powers in their body tissues. That is purely impulsive. How can one believe that they will find luck if they kill another?

Above all, we have to value human life. The law is clear that anyone who breaks it should be dealt with through proper channels like the engagement of the police.

Mdzukulu, Malawi seems to be still stuck in the Dark Age when issues of human rights were non-existent. We need to be progressing. We cannot cling to ancient beliefs, some of which were even imposed on us by colonial rulers.

The elderly are supposed to be wells of knowledge from where the younger generation should drink. We have to treasure them.

Why should one be killed simply because they have been blessed to live long? Should living long be a crime in Malawi?

A few years back, a report on the rights of women revealed that over 50 women were jailed for being suspected to be witches.

A campaign launched by rights activists resulted in most of these women being released from jail. But the persecution and prosecution of people suspected to be practising witchcraft has not stopped.

Some quarters argue that traditional leaders sanction attacks on persons suspected to be witches. Most of these leaders simply sanction the attacks so as not to be seen to be siding with evil people in their communities.

At the end of the day, it is a crime to attack and or kill someone after accusing them of practising witchcraft. In fact, it is crime to kill, full stop!

Sometimes, people are accused of practising witchcraft simply because they are doing well, socio-economically, in society.

Thus, some scholars argue that contemporary understandings of witchcraft are premised on community paranoia and reflect how some people view their surroundings and rationalise anxieties over living standards and socio-economic statuses.

Mdzukulu, it is high time we shredded such perceptions. Malawi’s Witchcraft Act, which was put in place by colonial masters in 1911, should be repealed as soon as possible.

Otherwise, we will continue having some irrational individuals attacking people with albinism based on their senseless belief that they will land at some windfall which they did not toil for. We will also continue having some unwise people attacking the elderly simply because of their age.

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