Mponela First Grade Magistrate’s Court has sentenced a man and his accomplice to 17 years imprisonment for abducting and murdering a 21-year-old woman with albinism.
Two weeks ago, police arrested Gerald Phiri, an uncle to the murdered Eneless Nkhata, and nine others on suspicion of having a hand in her death at Madisi in Dowa.
The sentence is a landmark as it is the most severe delivered so far in court cases relating to albino abductions and killings that have surfaced in Malawi in recent months.
Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) protested a four-year jail term given by the Mzuzu Magistrate’s Court to two men who attempted to abduct and murder a four-year-old child with albinism.
However, the Mponela sentence has given hope to Apam, with the association’s president Boniface Massa hailing the courts for “beginning” to offer penalties that would deter would-be offenders.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Massa said Apam is working with lawyers provided by government to appeal judgements it was not satisfied with.
Mponela Police Station spokesperson Kondwani Kandiado said in an interview that the 10 were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to Section 404 of the Penal Code.
Nkhata’s uncle was also charged with abducting in order to murder a person contrary to Section 261 of the Penal Code, according to Kandiado.
He said: “Phiri and the second co-accused [Medson Madzialenga whom he allegedly agreed to sell bones of a person with albinism with] pleaded guilty. ” In mitigation, Kandiado said, the two blamed Satan for influencing their acts and pleaded for leniency on the basis that they are first offenders and that they look after their aged parents.
However, first grade magistrate Beatrice Ng’oma ignored their plea and agreed with the State prosecutor Isaac Kadawayula that the two deserved a stiffer sentence. The magistrate described events surrounding the missing and murder of Nkhata as inhumane.
Kandiado said the 10 will also jointly answer a murder charge at the High Court.
The other eight who pleaded not guilty are Jezmoni Baluwa, Weluzani Foster, Steven Ching’ombe, Isaac Msambalume, Kaluzi Kamangeni, Damiano Phiri, Damisoni Manyoni (ex-Army officer) and Mc Donald Kanyerere.
Apam has reported over 50 cases of attacks against persons with albinism, which have resulted into deaths, abductions for the purposes of body parts removal, and exhumation of their bodies, mostly in the district of Machinga, Mchinji, Kasungu, Phalombe, Karonga and Mzimba and lately Dowa.n