Malawi President Peter Mutharika has decried the deaths of four elderly persons, suspected of being witches, who were lynched in Neno this week as cases on mob justice especially on suspected of witches have been on the rise in Malawi in recent times.
Byson Kanjete, 73, Eliza Enoce Kanjete, 86, Elenefa Kanjete, 76 and Idesi Julius Kanjete aged 69 were on Monday brutally killed by an irate mob that suspected that the four deceased practiced witchcraft and were behind the death of their granddaughter who was struck by lightning.
President Mutharika said he learnt about the senseless killings with “great shock.”
According to a statement issued by presidential spokesman Gerald Viola, made available to Nyasa Times, Mutharika has edged that his government will step up its efforts to stem the killings of elderly women on witchcraft suspicions.
“The President is saddened by the brutal acts of the mob in Chimbalanga Village and has since ordered the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Services to investigate the matter and bring to justice and trial of all those involved in the killing the 4 innocent people,” said Viola.
Mutharika wants to people change their attitudes towards witchcraft and realise the value of elderly persons in society.
“President Mutharika is again reminding Malawians to stop accusing the elderly of witchcraft whenever someone dies. The President says the elderly people deserve respect and protection at all costs and that His Government will not tolerate any victimization of the elderly people in this Country,” the statement concludes.
Neno Police Spokesperson Raphel Kaliati said police were doing all they can to arrest the perpetrators.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Civil Society, have also expressed dismay with the brutal killings in Neno and also concerned with the mob killing of an escaping prisoner from Chichiri Prison.
“It is disheartening to note that some citizens decided to take the law in their hands by killing the escaping prisoners instead of handing them over to the relevant authorities. We categorically and unequivocally condemn these barbaric killings and call upon the law enforcers to accord the utmost urgency the issue deserves so that those responsible whoever they are and wherever they are should be hunted down, arrested and be held accountable for this crime that gravely violate human dignity and human right,” said a statement by the CSO.s.
The statement was issued by Timothy Mtambo of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Masauko Thawe – Young Advocates (YA), George Thindwa – Association for Secular Humanism (ASH), Gift Trapence – Centre for Development of People (Cedep), Robert Mkwezalamba – Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) , Victor Mhango – Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHRREA) , Mtende Msindama – Lawyers for Human Rights (LFHR), Charles Kajoloweka – Youth and Society (YAS), Darlingtion Harawa – Passion for Women and Children, Billy Mayaya -Activist and Chrispine Sibande – Human Rights Lawyer.
The CSOs remind Malawians that mob justice violence, whatever the reasons behind it, finds no justification in both the domestic and international legal human rights system as it violates the right to due process, sanctity of life (Section 16 of Malawi Constitution) and their presumptive innocence until proven otherwise by a competent court of law.
The CSOs said mob justice is a criminal offence and that Malawi lawes further forbids accusing anyone of being a witch or practicing witchcraft.
They cited the the 2009 report by United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, which called upon states to ensure that all killings of alleged witches are treated as murder, and should be investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly.
“ It is therefore clear from this that immunity from prosecution of mob violence against anyone including those accused of witchcraft has no place under both domestic and international legal jurisdiction hence our candid reminder to law enforcers to move with urgency on the matter,” reads the statement.
The CSOs asked government through the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Ministry of Information, and Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare in partnership with Malawi Human Rights Commission to come out and strongly condemn the murderers.
The activist said government should consider embarking on a “robust sensitization campaign” of the ills of mob violence “as it is apparent that there is also limited or lack of understanding of the rights of the accused persons and also the criminality of the act.”
They further called on Malawi Police Service and Ministry of local government and internal security to intensify and invest resources on Community policing and awareness raising on the role of the Police and the need for people to coexist but more importantly treat the Police as their first call on any issue of this nature.
“As CSOs we believe if our police is taken to the people directly or through Community policing structures, such incidents can be avoided as there will always be tips and grapevines of serious actions to take place in a community which If dealt with in time can prevent such incidents. We strongly believe that this will go a long way in eliminating the incidences of mob justice in the country,” stated the CSOs.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :