The Association for Secular Humanism (ASH) has said cases of witchcraft-based violence could be better handled by the police unlike sending back the complainants to resolve them in their respective communities.
ASH executive director Dr George Thindwa made the observation during a series of sensitization meetings with the police, traditional authorities Chiwalo and Chikweo, and Senior Chief Liwonde and their subordinates in Machinga, which were aimed at finding ways of reducing the witchcraft-based violence cases.
Cases of witchcraft-based violence has been dominant in the district, according to a research done by his association and that Machinga ranks second to Karonga according to the report. The project is being funded by the Royal Norwegian Government.
Thindwa blamed police officers who refuse to handle witchcraft cases arguing, they have the mandate to enforce the law on witchcraft according to the Constitution of Malawi.
“I was concerned to hear that a certain lady was assaulted for being suspected to be a witch and ended up her leg being amputated at the hospital here in Machinga.
“I understand the police have not being helpful on the matter but I am happy that my coming to meet the police officers here, including the Commissioner of Police for the Eastern Region, will change the mindset of such police officers and the chiefs to enforce the witchcraft law as provided for in the Witchcraft Act,” he said.
The secular humanist further added that what his association is promoting is the witchcraft law which states that nobody should state that one is a witch and once one does that, he or she has committed an offence under Section 6 of the Witchcraft Act.
Adds Thindwa: “The same laws say that nobody should point a finger at anybody to say that this one or that one is a witch. If you do that then you have broken the law on Section 4 of the Witchcraft Act but if you go to the Constitution on Section 33, it should be understood properly, it states that anybody should believe in anything which
pleases him or her. So the Constitution says that we should not use our beliefs to inflict harm others.”
Speaking after the sensitization meeting at Ntaja Police Station, Eastern Region Commissioner of Police Chrissy Ngauma appreciated the gathering and said it has enlightened many on how to deal with cases
of witchcraft-based violence.
“We have to receive issues of witchcraft at any police formation in the country and this is what we have been taught in our institutions. This is what the Constitution stipulates and Mr Thindwa came just to emphasize on. We do not have to send the complainants back but investigate the cases for evidence before taking them to court. All in
all, we as the police have to be professional when dealing with such cases,” she said.