Witch killing: When Will Enough Be Enough in Malawi?

Alleged Witches in Malawi
Alleged Witches

Some days ago, an advocate against witch persecution in Malawi shared this report on a WhatsApp group: “Mother Killed Over Witchcraft Allegations in Karonga, Malawi”. The report says that “An angry mob in Karonga, Malawi yesterday Sunday (December 27) killed a 67-year-old woman Esinala Mbowe over witchcraft allegations that she bewitched her 37-year-old son Patrick Chitete”. I checked online and discovered that some media outlets in Malawi had published the story.

The story states that Mr. Chitete was ill, and later “passed away on December 24, 2020, at Atupele Mission Hospital where he was admitted”. According to a local police officer, some people in the village accused Mbowe of bewitching and killing the son. Following the death of the son, Mbowe’s accusers mobilized and lynched her. Police authorities in the area are conducting investigations. They are trying to apprehend the suspects. The Police have urged the general public against mob justice.

There have been many cases of witch persecution and killing in Malawi. Alleged witches have been stoned to death or murdered in districts across the country including Dedza, Karonga, Ntchisi, Chitipa, Rumphi, and Dowa. These tragic incidents follow the same pattern. Cases of illness or death are linked to persons, the alleged witches, in the communities. Mobs attack or kill these suspected witches. In some cases, alleged are heavily fined or abducted by witch hunters who detain them until they pay up.

In cases where alleged witches are murdered, the police usually arrive at the scene after the mob had meted out jungle justice against the accused. The police claim to be conducting investigations or to be looking for the suspects, who are usually at large. Witch persecution and killing happen too often in Malawi. The authorities are aware of these tragic incidents. But Malawian authorities seem to lack the political will to tackle the problem. They appear to be taking no effective measures against witchcraft allegations and witch killing. So when will Malawian authorities rise up to their duty to protect all Malawians especially the alleged witches? When will the government say: Enough is enough?. When will they say: Enough of this bloodletting and show of shame?. When will Malawi take a firm stand against this savagery and barbarism? When will Malawi declare: Never again? Never again will any alleged witch be attacked, killed, or abused in the country? Malawi must take a strong stand against witch persecution otherwise these horrific abuses would not stop.

For instance, there is virtually no program in place to reorient the minds of people and get Malawians to understand that witchcraft is a form of superstition. There is no mechanism to educate and let Malawians know that witchcraft allegation is baseless, mistaken, and absurd; that witch hunters are charlatans who should be exposed and sanctioned. Now, what is stopping the government of Malawi from initiating a nationwide program to dispel witchcraft fears and anxieties?
What is preventing Malawi from setting up an awareness campaign to combat superstitions and promote scientific thinking and critical inquiry?

Look, Malawians need to know that there is no link between witchcraft and illness or death as popularly believed; that witchcraft is an imaginary crime and alleged witches are innocent. Simply put, Malawians need to realize that they are lynching and stoning innocent people to death. Malawi has no reason to allow witch bloodletting to continue in the communities in this age. It is evident that the reactive approach to combating witch persecution has been ineffective; it has not worked. So a change of approach is needed and has become necessary. Malawi must adopt proactive measures to eradicating this social disease. The government should firmly and categorically say Enough of witch killing and persecution in the country.

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