The most pressing and urgent issue about the blood-sucking saga is not whether it is real or a hoax. Rather it is about how those wrongly suspected to be blood-suckers or harbouring alleged blood suckers are being treated in the country. They are being killed by vigilantes.
As of last week end, six people have lost their lives through mob justice for being suspected to be blood-suckers or accomplices of blood-suckers. The police and faith leaders from the Blantyre Synod have unsuccessfully tried to dismiss stories about this strange ritual.
In its informal meaning, the term blood-suckers denote people who extort or live off others. Conspiracy theories about blood-suckers have been amplified by reports and documentaries showing that young blood from rats transfused into older ones makes them revitalised. Almost reversing aging in the body and brain.
Stories about blood-suckers are not localised or incidental to Malawi or its big south east neighbour—Mozambique. Studies conducted elsewhere on blood-suckers show that those practicing this strange ritual are not asking to be found. So they are adept at hiding. This has been a barrier that researchers have faced on the subject.
In Malawi, blood-sucking has wrongly been associated with people who are well off or want to get charms for acquiring wealth. Mob justice on alleged blood-suckers and their accomplices have been nourished by petty jealousy and buffeted by ignorance of the law.
On Wednesday this week, Minister of Information and Communications and Technology Nicholas Dausi and his counterpart from Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa addressed the press in Lilongwe on the subject. Their message? Stories about blood-sucking in the country are being fomented by the opposition and civil society organisations hell bent on tarnishing the good image of the country.
In Malawi everything is political. Dausi and Mussa saw some invisible political hands behind the incidents to bent on tarnishing the image of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led government. Their argument has been that nobody has come forward with irrefutable evidence that they have been victims of blood-suckers. They missed the point by a wide mark. They should have addressed the real issue. Namely, plans government has to restore peace and calm in the country especially in the districts where killings are rampant—Mulanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Zomba, Chiradzulu and Nsanje. What is irrefutable is that people are dying and living in fear. This is what government should have been concerned with.
While DPP leaders are busy day in, day out spending millions of kwacha campaigning for a single Parliamentary seat in one of the affected districts—Nsanje—where a chief has lost his life all that the DPP-led government can afford is find a scapegoat to blame the problem on. They should have taken the message to the affected districts rather than addressing the media from the comfort of air conditioned offices in the Capital.
Further up the hierarchy, the President is to blame. People are being killed on his watch. Where is the Commander in Chief of the Malawi Police Service? One would have expected that as he landed at Kamuzu International Airport, his first message should have been to condemn the killings and outline plans to stop the carnage. Rather than satisfy himself with justifying his extended stay in the US.
My petition to APM is that if he loves this country, before he embarks on a campaign trail for by-elections in Lilongwe and Nsanje, he should rise above partisan politics and do the needful. Go round to all the affected districts. Do this as a matter of urgency. Innocent lives are being lost under your watch. We don’t want one more person to die. When you have foreign governments such as the US withdrawing its volunteers working in the tourist district—Mulanje—because of the insecurity as a result of the killings, the President should have been concerned. This is not a matter to sleep on.