MLS, MANEPO demand respect for human dignity and right to life of older persons

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) and the Malawi Network for Older Persons Organization (MANEPO) have jointly issued a strong statement condemning the continued reported cases of discrimination against, torture, abuse and killing of older persons in Malawi over witchcraft allegations.

The two organisations have cited a number of incidents that have recently taken place across the country. Records show that on 1st January 2023, 72-year-old Maggie Nyengani from Opeliwa Village, Traditional Authority Nazombe in Phalombe was killed by villagers accusing her of killing her grandchild through witchcraft.

Andrew Kavala

On 19th December, 2022, an elderly woman from Ngamwani 2 Village in the area of Senior Chief Kapichi in Thyolo District was harassed by people following allegations that she was responsible for the sudden death of her relation.

On 3rd December, 2022, Christina Mphande, an elderly woman from Mandala Zimba Village, Traditional Authority Kampingo Sibande in Mzimba District was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment when she was forced to fill up a grave of her daughter in-law on allegations that she was responsible for her death.

Similar incidents have been reported throughout the country and the two organisations have made an appeal and a call to action in a statement issued on 3rd January, 2023 signed by MANEPO Executive Director, Andrew Kavala and Malawi Law Society Honorary Secretary Crispin Chimwemwe Ngunde.

“MLS and MANEPO would like to remind all Malawians that the Witchcraft Act does not recognise the existence of witchcraft. The 2016 National Policy for Older Persons recognises the duty of the State to protect the rights of older persons in a country grappling with charges in traditional family values and the erosion of social support structures,” reads the statement in part.

MLS and MANEPO have therefore called State to immediately revise its policies and relevant laws, including giving attention to the Older Persons’ Bill, to respond to the immediate challenges affecting the older persons who are continuously being victimised over witchcraft allegations.

They have also asked the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to immediately investigate, arrest, and prosecute every person involved in the barbaric and heinous act leading to the death of Maggie Nyengani in Phalombe and to be swiftly investigating and bringing to book all people involved in abusing, torturing, or killing elderly persons or any person over witchcraft allegations.

Courts, traditional leaders and all Malawians have also been asked to do their part well in fighting against the evil vice.

“It is the responsibility of all citizens to protect and safeguard the rights of the elderly. If we work together, we can make greater strides towards creating the world we want for older men and women in our country, a world that is free from want, free from harm and one in which every older person has means to lead a dignified, healthy, and secure life,” reads the conclusion of the statement.

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