Malawi ‘hyena man’ Aniva jailed two years over sexual cleansing ritual: Lawyer Goba says to appeal on ‘material error in law one-too-many’

Nsanje principal magistrate court has slapped two years jail sentence to Eric Aniva popularly known as ‘ Hyena man” for having sex with at least 100 girls and women in traditional cleansing rituals  which the court said was“harmful practices” as he was also HIV-positive.

 Eric Aniva known as a “hyena” arrives at the Magistrate Court in Nsanje (AFP Photo/Eldson Chagara)

Eric Aniva known as a “hyena” arrives at the Magistrate Court in Nsanje (AFP Photo/Eldson Chagara)

Principal Magistrate Innocent Nebi before delivering the sentence, said Aniva 45,  who was prosecuted on the orders of President Peter Mutharika after publicly speaking about his role as a “hyena” in a BBC radio documentary earlier this year, took an advantage of the vulnerable women for the practice but also gaining some money out of the act.

Nebi further said Aniva showed no remorse during the entire hearing process therefore the court had to take a tough stance to and deter would be offenders.

“The convict had no regard to the feelings of widows, no regard to dignity of women and it is even doubtful that condoms were used,” the Magistrate said. “Such a culture has no place in Malawi.”

“Giving  you  a fine or suspended sentence is a mockery to justice. I convict you to serve 24 months’ imprisonment,” Nebi told Aniva in a packed courtroom.

“The court has sentenced you to 24 months for the first count of engaging in harmful practices and 10 months on second count of attempting to engage in harmful cultural practices. These sentences are supposed to be served concurrently with effect from the day he was arrested,” concluded Principal Magistrate Nebi.

However, Aniva’s lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta said he will launch an appeal at the High Court.

“This is a miscarriage of justice,” said lawyer Chipeta. “There were a lot of errors made in the conviction and sentencing.”

“ On the sentencing, the Gender Equality Act of 2013 provide and option of either fine or sentence which the magistrate did not consider.

“The 100 women who were claimed to have been involved in the practice none of them did not come in court to testify. What we were expecting was a fine or suspended sentence. We are going to appeal both the conviction and the sentence to the high court,” said Chipeta.

He repeated that the culture has been there for over 100 years while the laws against engaging in harmful practices were enacted some three years ago thus it is inhuman to give the convict a custodial sentence.

Dressed in a blue and white stripes golf shirt Aniva, who pleaded not guilty, did not look shaken as the Magistrate was pronouncing the sentence.

He said outside the courtroom that he  “disappointed” with the jail term with hard labour  “because I thought I would be given a suspended sentence.”

Custom in some parts of southern Malawi demands that a man, known as a “hyena”, is paid to have sex with bereaved widows to exorcise evil spirits and to prevent other deaths occurring.

At the request of a girl’s parents, the “hyena” is also paid to have sex with adolescent girls to mark their passage to womanhood after their first menstruation.

The charges, brought under the gender equality act, involved sex with bereaved widows as none of the younger girls would testify.

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The so called hyena man “John 8:3-11 “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (v 7) Only a woman is brought before Jesus yet adultery is between two people. The story is intriguing. I therefore relate it to Eric Aniva’s episode. I see justice is falling through a crack. My questions; where are the chiefs and elders of the land who were allowing him to conduct this practice? Where are the parents who were paying this man to perform the called service? This was all done under the consent of… Read more »

He should be put in jail for knowingly engaging in sex without a condom and not informing the girl or woman that he is HIV positive,

Cultural practices with widowed women did the prosecution present evidence that he engaged in these practices after the law was enacted? It was proven he should be sentenced to jail.

He has been in jail for 5 months the court had to convict him now only 19 months more jail, likely less than 12 with good behavior

Kwacha Malawi
Exodus 20:14 – NIV version, says you shall not commit adultery, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. I wonder you people backing up this hyena. He deserves this punishment because although it is their tradition, he has a mandated to refuse not to slept with young or widow women. Remember, we are God fearing Country. This is a total curse before God and blemish. Many comments are coming from Christians but you have overlooked above verse, mind you sin is a sin no matter what type of sin but its… Read more »

The complainant in this case was President Mutharika. Very interesting looking at the speed of the trial. At the same Cashgaters, who have brought untold suffering and shame on Malawians, are driving around Scot free because the same president says there is no evidence. Fotseki!

Charlie Hebdo

This country never ceases to amaze me. Cashgaters are left scot-free while a nameless victim of some cultural practice is behind bars. Would Aniva be behind bars if he was a Makondi or a Chaponda? Your guess is as good as mine. If the president had applied the same standards on the cashgaters as he did on this Aniva, Malawians would have hope of a better Malawi. Cashgaters are killing more Malawians than this Aniva. Our efforts are really misplaced.


the village head, women & girls should face the law the judgment must be very hard to all.

Suspended sentence or fine would really be enough. After all, this was not a one man arrangement. It was the family of the girl or woman which arranged for the practice to take place. Aniva here is just a sacrificial lamb. He was approached by family members to practice the ritual. That is why nobody came to testify. Actually he was also a victim of the practice when he was infected because culturally he could not be allowed to use condoms, even he himself wanted to.These factors should have been considered. I don’t think also that Aniva would go and… Read more »
mwana mulopwana

@ Mwanache I agree to your reasoning big time

Bristone Mabichi
Eric does not deserve this sentence as much as we know what he did was wrong. It was not ignorance on his part but what tradition required of him. What about those who paid him to do the act? What about the village head who authorised the same? The villagers clearly indicated that they cannot stop the practice otherwise they will die. If what villagers said on radio about fisi is true then be assured soon or later another fisi will be in court. What the courts have done is not a deterrent to others. We knew this all along,… Read more »
Chikadya Kuwani

This Principal Magistrate is afraid of his boss, please Mr. Goba go ahead with your appeal to the High Court, all those women should come to court as witnesses and medical reports are also needed. That mwambo has been there for many many years and why to punish that man for nothing.

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