Man with albinism escapes from death

His name is Charles Chidambukira Ndau and the story of his predicament in the shadow of death threatening people with albinism in Malawi is sadly becoming a common one.

Charles Ndau filled with fear for his life.
Charles Ndau filled with fear for his life.

The average height 52-year-old, still haunted by events in February this year, is a man in a tide of people with albinism who are trying so hard to stay out of the focal lens of brutality from  some human beasts.

“I can hardly trust any person now,” said Ndau, his voice sounding so subdued by eternal fear.

His mistrust is understandable given that some species of Homo sapiens have now become unfriendly to their own kind. It seems like they have developed a predatory gene so deadly than that of a wild animal like a lion.

The story told by Ndau is depressing, a sad one too. On 6th February this year, he was locked in a room of a certain shop owner at Lizulu Trading Centre in Ntcheu.

“I went there to buy iron sheets and I found the owner assisting another customer. I waited. When it was my turn, I produced money amounting to K103, 000 for the purchase of the sheets.

After he received my money, I saw him coming out of the counter and went straight to the entrance of the shop and closed the doors,” said the dejected Ndau.

“He started accusing me of stealing his money through magic (Chitaka). He said that the last time I visited his shop on 16th January, money amounting to K76, 000 disappeared. He claimed I was the one responsible,” he said.

The shop-owner is said to have taken out K76, 000 from the money he was given and tore the remaining K27, 000 to pieces before tying Ndau’s hands and threw him into another room in the shop.

“I pleaded with him to let me go but he refused. He told me bluntly that am done and that he was going to kill me,” said Ndau.

He further recounted that he heard the man make numerous calls but could not grasp what was said since he (Ndau) was locked in the room.

To Ndau, this was a typical case of abduction and a prospect of death that is becoming increasingly common against people living with albinism in Malawi. The thought that forced him to find a way of freeing himself from the rope tied around his hands.

“I managed to untie myself and since I had a phone with me, I made a call to my son who is also a businessman at Lizulu Trading Centre. I told him where I was and the situation I was in,” he said.

It was this call that saved Ndau from whatever was to befall him.

Emmanuel Dyson, the son to Ndau, confirmed to Malawi News Agency in a telephone interview that his father was really locked up in a shop.

“After receiving the call, I mobilised some friends, went to the shop and confronted the owner. He refused us entry but we forced ourselves in by breaking the doors. We found my father locked in another room in the shop,” said Dyson.

But now Dyson and most people in his village are surprised that the owner of this shop has not been penalised for what he did and is still conducting his business at Lizulu.

The anger in Ndongwe Village in T/A Chakhumbira, where Ndau resides, has been brewing like a stormy wind. Many people feel their colleague has been short-changed on justice.

A group discussion on governance issues by radio listeners clubs (RLCs) from Ntcheu is the one that brought the case of Ndau to the spotlight.

Through an empowerment project on human rights funded by Democracy Consolidation Programme (DCP), communities in Ntcheu expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the Malawian police handled the issue of Ndau.

“How can someone who abducts a person with albinism walk free and continue to go about his business. There is foul play here and the police are not helping us,” said group village headman Ndongwe.

“This is a typical scenario of selective justice that offers no help in curbing the inhuman acts against people with albinism,” said Zacharia Chitowe, a monitor for Ndongwe Radio Listeners Club.

Chitowe said that as communities, they are organising a protest march against these inhuman acts.

“We will march to Lizulu Police Station to seek explanation on the matter of our friend (Ndau),” Chitowe said it is the duty of police to protect people against crime.

A recent report by Amnesty International (AI) on violence and discrimination against people with albinism in Malawi titled “We are not animals to be hunted or sold” cited poor policing as one factor that is compromising access to justice for people living with albinism.

But the case of Ndau seems to be a tricky one. Ntcheu Police spokesperson Gift Matewere said they are quite aware of the case but they did not handle the issue since it did not fall within their jurisdiction.

“The shop that Ndau was locked in is in Mozambique and the shop owner, although he is Malawian, was arrested there,” Matewere said. “If the place of occurrence of an incident is in a particular country, the case is handled there and it was the same with this one.

“Many locals are not aware of these laws and that is why there are attacking the police in Malawi of doing nothing or insinuating foul play.”

However, Matewere said the police at Lizulu only got involved in Ndau’s case when it facilitated a meeting with their counterparts in Mozambican for him to reclaim his money which he did.

The alleged perpetrator, a well known business person at Lizulu Trading Centre, has repeatedly refused granting media interviews to give his side of the story.

Ndau, a teacher at Chilobwe Primary School in Ntcheu, said although he got his money back, he is still a haunted person that sometimes he freezes in mid motion with fear.

“When am teaching I just stop abruptly and stay quiet for some seconds to the amazement of my pupils.  What I went through was hellish and I still think about it. I thank God because this was an escape from death,” he said.

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