In 2016, four people were murdered in a village in Neno on suspicion of practising witchcraft. There were other incidents in the country before that.
Recently, a woman was stoned to death in Dedza on suspicion of being a witch. There will be other incidences if stringent measures are not taken to curb this practice along with rape.
These incidences bring into question the sanity levels in our country. Is poverty leading us into mental and spiritual derailment? How do people watch a woman being stoned to death and live with it? How does a whole village murder four people and live with it?
Neno incident as a case study
A girl was struck by lightning and died. This was blamed on witchcraft; suspects were ‘identified’ and sentenced immediately without trial.
People die of lightning everywhere in the world and it has nothing to do with witchcraft. It is said that in Kisii in western Kenya, some 30 people die each year from lightning strikes. Kisii’s high rate of lightning fatalities occurs because of the frequency of thunderstorms and because many of the area’s structures have metal roofs.
Maybe we would think this happens only in Africa, but let us cross over to beyond Africa. History has shown that in the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods or deadly weather. And apparently, lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes; between 75 to 100 people worldwide.
Many people reading this article would think we are literate and know what lightning is and it is the people in the ‘village’ that believe in witchcraft. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth; there are urban-based so-called ‘enlightened’ people who believe in the dark and the sinister so much that they profess them as reasonable explanations for any misfortune without scientific backing, facts or evidence.
Witchcraft might exist, but I do not think it should be the immediate explanation for things that have valid scientific, technical, organic and natural explanations.
I am sure if I stayed in the village or anywhere else where people believe in witchcraft and told them I sometimes get burning sensations in my stomach at night they would immediately declare that someone was practising witchcraft on me. They would say the people fly at night and set my intestines on fire. But well, it is just acid accumulated in the gut for reasons as simple as stress, certain medications or diet.
The woe factor
To a large extent, issues of witchcraft are a matter of perspective and also a matter closely associated with ignorance. In the country we have grown to label people witches for the simplest things like one being an introvert or having obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Can we at least explore the facts before rushing to persecute people?
According to a lawyer friend, the Witchcraft Act does not recognise witchcraft. By the country’s laws, ‘pretending to practise witchcraft’ is an offence. In other words, witchcraft is non-existent. All who confess to witchcraft are just pretenders. And calling another person a witch is also an offence
Some would say this protects the witches because, if they exist, government’s stand makes them immune to prosecution and makes their victims miss out on justice.
On the other hand, under the law, it is hard and almost impossible to prosecute an accused without ample evidence and facts. And government laws need to put this into consideration when declaring something liable to prosecution or not. The problem with witchcraft is it usually seems to have speculative and not tangible evidence and it is almost always impossible to prove.
People who believe in witchcraft or maybe have ‘experienced’ it remain relentless in their hunt for witches and in their hunger to eradicate them from the surface of the earth. This results, more frequently, in unwarranted murders and abuse of other people’s rights.
At the end of the day, mob justice brings into question the characters of the persons engaged in it. If one believes murder is wrong, they cannot then turn to murder and justify their crime.
In the case of the Neno deaths, four deaths were justified because of one death? From the look of things, the village harbours a lot of murderers. How about stoning an old lady to death? You cannot chase darkness with darkness; that is a retrogressive cocktail of vanity and hypocrisy.
I rest my case.