Today in Malawi dozens of people have been jailed for up to six years, with hard labor, under accusations of practicing “witchcraft.” Most are elderly women accused by children.
As incredible as it may seem, convictions for practicing “witchcraft” are common in the African country, where belief in witches is widespread among both the populace and government authorities. Indeed, allegations of witchcraft have increased across parts of central and west Africa in recent years, with penalties including ostracism, violence and execution. Nor are accusations limited to the elderly. An April 2010 Unicef report found that tens of thousands of children, some as young as four, are being accused of witchcraft.
George Thindwa of Malawi’s Association for Secular Humanism has organized a petition demanding that Malawi’s president discharge all cases for witchcraft-related offenses. The petition reads, in part:
Your Excellency, we the undersigned report that there are many women and the elderly who are convicted and serving sentences in our prisons. Many are also on remand or bail answering cases on practicing witchcraft.
Your Excellency, many of these victims are old, some have died in prison while others are sick. They cannot stand prison conditions. For example; James Mpinganjira died at Maula prison while on remand in 2010; Mr. Kalimake died at Maula prison in 2009. He was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment in 2007; F. Mkolokosa aged 70 years died at Chichiri prison in Nov. 2010 and C. Tchale aged 75 years died at Maula prison in Dec. 2010. Many other inmates who are sick include; L. Tamverankhani of Chichiri prison; Uka Ajabu at Mangochi; Namalinda Josephy at Dedza and Margaret Jackson is epileptic and suffers from frequent fits. Namakhalepo Kamphata at Maula prison is very old and unable to walk and very sick. The Central hospital has recommended home based care (home being Maula prison) for her.
Your Excellency, we appeal to you to please bring relief to these innocent Malawians. Please consider them for pardon. They should be released. We should not be convicting our citizens in the 20th Century because of witchcraft.
Please join the Association for Secular Humanism and CFI in calling for an end to witchcraft prosecutions in Malawi. Read and sign the petition by clicking here .