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C himunthu Banda, Hetherwick Ntaba, Vuwa Kaunda - government's spokesmen muddying human rights with the gay issue

Monday, April 18, 2011


It may seem strange that an organisation such as ASH which does not accept the reality of witchcraft should have proposed to the special law commission on the reform of the law relating to witchcraft  that the existing law inherited from the British administration should remain in force without major changes. Recent events have justified this approach.
The law is quite clear – it is unlawful to accuse anyone of being a witch. There are punishments laid down in the law for transgressors. It is unlawful for any person to make any claim to being a witch or having the powers of a witch. Consequently, there is no remedy in law for people who believe that they have been bewitched. Unfortunately, many police officers and many magistrates who are themselves firm believers in witchcraft have misrepresented or misapplied the law with those accused being charged with ‘Pretending to be a witch’ and the accusers going free. This is generally based on accusations made especially by children whose heads have been filled with nonsense by their elders that the ‘witch’ has been taking them on magic ‘planes or has been taking them at night to graveyards to feast on human flesh.
Such was the case with the Mzembe’s which, late in 2010, came to the attention of ASH. ASH’s Executive Secretary, George Thindwa, who gave the following initial report:
The Mzembes were living in Area 18 township.They were labeled as witches and afraid of mob justice, they left Area 18 and reallocated to Chinsapo township in Likuni, some 20kilometers away.

Their accusers did not leave them alone and in peace but followed them to Chinsapo. One of them disguised herself as a visitor from Blantyre and had access to their house sometime in August 2010 where she accused the children as satanists and of witchcraft.

She left and the following morning they received a phone call from a lady from  Area 18 accusing them of being witches and  being responsible for causing misery through witchcraft including death to the family of a person who was  their former neighbors  at Area 18 location.

When the Mzembes took up this issue with the Police at Area 18, they ended up being charged themselves with witchcraft- in short pretending witchcraft. And the case is in court against them. Children of the neighbor are testifying that the Mzembes come at night  from Chinsapo to Area 18 through magic; taught them witchcraf and flew to graveyards where they ate human flesh.
The outcome of the case was another victory for ASH where the magistrate has been able to apply the law correctly as Thindwa reports:
The Ruling for the Mzembes case on pretending witchcraft came to court today on 14 April at 11.30 am. ASH’s George Thindwa was in attendance.
Magistrate Gomani read his ruling this way:
1- He stated that the Court heard the evidence from the children that the Mzembes were practicing witchcraft. That they fly to America in lichelo (winnowing basket) where they drink human blood.
2- but the case before this  court was on pretending witchcraft which in short, the state witnesses should have shown that the accused by their statements or actions  pretended themselves as witches or having powers of witchcraft to the state witnesses or police.
3- the state witnesses did not show any evidence of admission on part of the accused that  they pretended witchcraft.
4- there was further no evidence paraded in the court for any statements or actions that the accused pretended witchcraft to the witnesses or the police.
5- the Magistrate said that since there was no evidence shown by the state regarding pretending witchcraft, he concluded that the prosecution failed to demonstrate to the court where it could  find the accused with a case to answer and ask them to defend themselves. He therefore found the accused, Mr Mzembe and his wife with NO CASE TO ANSWER! They were acquitted accordingly. The wife and husband were quite happy with madame shedding a tear. Those wishing to appeal his decision were asked to do so within 30 days!

This is very good outcome and we at the Association have received it with great pleasure. Those accused of witchcraft and charged of pretending witchcraft are getting justice in our Courts particularly with regard to the Lilongwe Magistrate court which is a shining model on how best to handle witchcraft cases. You may recall that 5 people were also acquitted by the same Lilongwe Magistrate court last week on 25th March!
When asked whether the Police in Lilongwe now understood the law correctly, Thindwa replied that it was not yet the case but many of the Police prosecutors are not happy with their seniors for sending them such cases.

1 comment:

  1. I am a socio-cultal anthropologits.Its sad that,even in the 21st century,our grandparents who we treasured so much as still accussed of being.Sometimes am scared.I dont grow old but when i think of ASH,am assured of safety.Keep it up