Understanding mob attacks

W

e do not know why, but mobs keep killing innocent people across the country.

In the past decade, the killings have become so frequent that some do not make headlines in our nation which believes that everyone is innocent until convicted by a court of law.

In the first three months of 2017, mob violence claimed 22 lives, with 13 of these murders occurring in the Central Region.

This month, Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa reported that the security agency needs about K1.5 billion to replace infrastructure that it has lost to incidents of mob violence in 2019.

A mob thinks collectively in a unity of misdemeanor. Everyone surrenders their minds and shuts their ears to the voice of reason. In excitement, they pounce on their victim and disperse.

Some say the upsurge in mob violence is a sign of raging anger among Malawians due to the rising cost of living, economic exclusion and low confidence in the political system. How do you explain fits of anger that find their fullest expression in such ruthless acts?

Some human rights campaigners claim that people are taking the law in their own hands because they have lost trust in law enforcement agencies and the justice system.

But it is not easy to understand these acts.

One rainy afternoon in 2016 in Chimbalanga Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Dambe in Neno, a teenage girl was struck by lightning. The next day, four siblings, all aged above 72, were beaten and left to die for apparently bewitching the young girl.

The Neno murders were atrocious.

The same year, a mob in Nsanje burnt seven men alleged to have been found with human bones. Their names were never mentioned. Just pictures of burnt bodies bundled in a truck off to be buried.

It is now generally agreed that police and community relations are at an all-time low.

As we enter the new decade, it is important to address this gap.

The first step is to better understand what has fuelled the surge in mob violence.

We urge the authorities to address the root causes of these attacks.  Surely, If we don’t understand the root causes of these acts, it will be difficult to address the problem.

Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, a land of friendly people bound by umunthu—a belief that I am because we are which upholds human dignity and binds kinsfolk, neighbours and stranger alike.

Some have said we are a “God-fearing nation’’. But our claim to these noble ideals we so proudly identify with stands questioned in light of these gruesome mob actions, including the killing of the elderly on baseless suspicion of witchcraft.

During the consecration of a Catholic Bishop in 2016, President Peter Mutharika wondered if we are indeed a warm-hearted people we claim to be.

“Are we only warm and friendly to strangers?” he asked.

Charity begins at home.

When society discards natural justice and pounces on suspected offenders without giving them a chance to be heard fairly, no one is safe.

Even the mob is not safe.  You or your beloved could be next to be frog-marched to death.

It could be you innocently travelling home one late evening and then you run into such a murderous jury that mistakenly takes you for a criminal without giving you a chance to explain yourself.

Or it could be your frail grandmother dragged, beaten and left to die like “a witch terrorising the village” just for being old.

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