Four elderly persons in Phalombe are in police custody over allegations that they killed a 21 year old man through magic.
Phalombe police station officer in charge William Kadzayekha confirmed the arrest of the four whom he refused to identify, saying they were whisked away after a mob wanted to administer mob justice on them.
This is happening just after a week when another mob killed four elderly people in Neno on allegations that they sent a lightning to kill a 17 year old girl, a move severely condemned by President Peter Mutharika and other civil rights organisations.
Kadzayekha refused to describe the picking of the four in the district as arrest, saying they were in police protected custody after a mob wanted to lynch them to death.
He said well wishers tipped the police that some people were organising to kill the elders accusing them of killing 21 year old Phudzo Mandawala.
The officer in charge said their evidence was from a 16 year old boy who implicated the four. He however said no one has been arrested for the allegations, saying the law enforcers were awaiting direction from the southern region police headquarters on the way forward.
The arrest of the four senior citizens comes the same day police headquarters publicist Nicholas Gombwa issued a statement warning people that it is illegal to call somebody a witch or call oneself a witch.
The police asked Malawians to respect all elderly people and said the law would take its course against those who harass the elderly in the name of witchcraft.
Malawi Network for Elderly Persons and the Association of Secular Humanism have on Wednesday asked the government to embark on intensive civic education to sensitize people on the witchcraft law.
George Thindwa, the Secular Humanism association’s executive director said Malawi has a Witchcraft Act dating back to 1911, but it states there is no such thing as witchcraft and makes it a punishable offense even to accuse anyone of being a witch.
Thindwa said the law and its intent are clear, but that does not stop traditional beliefs and fears from inspiring false charges against innocent people, and violent pressure to win so-called confessions.
“What actually happens is that they are forced to confess [by their accusers] because that is the only answer which the community wants to hear from them once they accuse them,” he said.
Kingsley Belo, a witchdoctor in Mbayani Township in Blantyre, asserts not only that witchcraft exists, but that witches have used their powers to kill people.
He says “I would wish if the laws on witchcraft were revisited, and the witchdoctors should be allowed to preside over or be state witnesses on cases involving witchcraft, because the existing laws are in conflict with reality.” Belo adds, “As witchdoctors we can have evidence that someone has killed another person through witchcraft, but he cannot be taken to court because there is no law against that, which means from he can continue killing other people.”
Thindwa says witchcraft does not exist, and he rejects the notion that witches can fly at night and use their powers to cause harm to others.—Additional reporting by Lameck MasinaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :