Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has blamed leadership decay at community level as contributing to the macabre cases of mob justice that communities execute on crime suspects.
CCJP’s observations follow dreadful killings of seven people in Nsanje District on March 1 on suspicion that they were found with human bones, and another incident in Neno on January 25 where four related elderly people were clobbered to death on witchcraft claims.
The Nsanje killings—where the seven were burnt—put Malawi on the world map for the wrong reason, after international media, including BBC, picked up the news and it must have shocked the world that civilians could burn to death seven people—one-by-one—in the name of mob justice.
CCJP acting national secretary Martin Chiphwanya said in an interview on Wednesday that these murder cases, and several others committed through mob justice, were an indication that community leaders no longer command respect.
He said ordinarily, community leaders, who include chiefs, councillors and legislators, were supposed to control the people they lead by advising them not to take the law into their own hands.
Chiphwanya said the other factor contributing to the sad development was the loss of trust in the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Judiciary where, in some instances; murder suspects or some suspects that committed heinous offences find their way out on bail.
Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) in an interview on Wednesday said lack of love; respect to human life and little faith in God were some of the contributing factors to cases of mob justice taking place.
MAM chairperson Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad said even where people are caught red-handed committing an offence, people must understand that Malawi is governed by laws and it is only proper to surrender such people in the hands of police.
Muhammad said: “I am afraid if we continue with this lawlessness, we may end up killing innocent people one day, if we have not done it already.”
Southern Region Police Headquarters spokesperson James Kadadzera said in an interview that as of last Wednesday, no one had been arrested in connection to the Nsanje killings, but said investigations were still underway.
In the Neno killings, the arrested 12—most of them related to the deceased four elderly people—were charged with murder and are on remand.
Meanwhile, police have downplayed suggestions that the cases of mob justice were a sign of vote of no confidence in the law enforcers.
Kadadzera said in an interview on Wednesday that people still trust the police, as shown by the numbers of suspected offenders brought to police on a daily basis. n