Malawi’s Struggle With Deadly Witchcraft Violence
Fighting Deathly Witchcraft Violence in Malawi, A sinister secret is hidden by the peaceful atmosphere that envelops Lupembe, a small settlement on the sandy banks of Lake Malawi.
On December 26, 2019, a grieving family was pursued and killed by a mob motivated by rumors of magic.
The murders are among scores of witchcraft deaths that have shook the nation of southern Africa, sparking discussions about fundamentally altering the rules against spreading rumors from colonial times.
Walinaye Mwanguphiri, 36, told AFP that “hundreds of locals converged on our home from all angles and began attacking me, my brother, and my parents.”
Mwanguphiri claimed to have narrowly escaped death, but his parents, brother, and aunt were all murdered.
According to World Bank data, the country in southern Africa has a belief in witchcraft that is almost as pervasive as its poverty, which affects nearly three out of every four people there.
According to the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), a non-governmental organization situated in the country’s capital Lilongwe, at least 75 persons have been slain by mobs since 2019 who were thought to be practicing dark magic.
Local media only recently revealed that the village leader in Dedza, central Malawi, was executed because locals believed he had used sorcery to slay his nephew.
After at least seven people were killed as vampire rumors spread over the area in 2017, the United Nations was obliged to withdraw its workers from southern Malawi.
A special group entrusted with creating legislative solutions to the problem came to the conclusion that recognizing the reality of magic was the best solution last December.
The laws in Malawi now presuppose that witchcraft does not exist. It is unlawful to accuse someone of practicing witchcraft, according to a legislation created during British colonial control.
However, the commission suggested that it would be preferable to acknowledge the existence of sorcery and declare its use illegal because the majority of Malawians believe in magic.
The commission’s chairman, former Supreme Court judge Robert Chinangwa, stated in his findings that laws cannot be used to repress people’s views.
“The commission therefore recommends recognising the existence of witchcraft and states that the law must penalise all witchcraft practices.”
Michael Kaiyatsa, director of CHRR, believes that making witchcraft a crime could help deter citizens from using the law to punish alleged sorcerers.
However, he warned that getting convictions might be difficult.
He declared, “Witchcraft… is not something that you can see or prove.”
According to his group, arrests and prosecutions for murders committed as a result of rumors have been extremely rare.
It depicts this as a case of law enforcement failing to stop the violence and fostering an atmosphere of impunity. It exhorts further action to apprehend murderers.
This month, AFP traveled to Lupembe, which is located 550 kilometers (350 miles) north of Lilongwe on a sandbar of Lake Malawi close to the Tanzanian border.
The 700-person town didn’t appear to have much evidence of the recent horrific incident.
While women scrubbed dishes and clothes, men lazed on a beach in the morning sun while they waited for a catch of sardines they had caught the previous night to dry.
Mwanguphiri, the survivor, stammered with emotion as he described his tragedy and what it was like to be living among his family’s murderers today inside his grass-thatched hut.
He claimed that the family had gathered at the local cemetery to bury his cousin’s son, who had passed away following a brief illness.
At that point, the mob surrounded them.
He stated that they had accused “us of killing (him) through witchcraft.”
Mwanguphiri claimed that he managed to squeeze through the crowd and fled the hamlet for his life, leaving behind his old parents and brother who had been killed by beatings.
I barely made it, he admitted.
He claimed that before dispersing, the mob demolished his, his brother’s, and his aunt’s homes.
A few villagers were detained by law enforcement officials but later freed, according to him.
A request for comment from the police received no response.
Walinaye Mwanguphiri is still unsure of what started the deadly rumors.
He returned to Lupembe after a year away, where he now looks after his brother’s five orphans.
“Although it is hard for us to live here after what happened, we have no other option because this is the only home that we know,” Mwanguphiri said.
“We have nowhere else to go.”