The demystification of witchcraft in Malawi
The demystification of witchcraft in Malawi
By Wisdom Yassin Malata
It is now a common practice by some misguided young people, to kill the Elderly allegedly for practicing what they call witchcraft.
Among the triggers of these unfounded accusations and subsequent deaths of the victims are; perceived mysterious deaths of young people, failure to do well in business as well as in marital life etc.
It seems to me that the young people- most of whom – mystified by the unverified narratives of witchcraft inherited from their primitive and fearful parents, do not bother to investigate the matters or allow the law take its cause, but just proceed to kill.
Truth be told, witchcraft is real ! I can confirm this without fear of contradiction or provoking harsh debate from the peddlers of the anti-witchcraft philosophies.
Witchcraft is generally a binary word that may attract both a denotative and connotative meaning depending on circumstance.
To demonstrate this, let provide two hypothetical scenarios; the first one being where a young man/woman obsessed with riches goes to a ritualist /or a traditional doctors to seek spiritual help on how to fasten the process of getting rich, and the ritualist suggests that the solution is to sacrifice a relative or any other person and the young man taking advantage of how witchcraft issues are socially constructed, did so, and as a cover up provoke others to point at an elderly person as the perpetrator; and the ignorant and unsuspecting young men eventually take action.
The second scenario is where the elderly persons- mostly known of being custodians of family heritage- are blocking young ones from abusing the heritage (e.g. farm land, houses, livestock etc.) by way of selling and young grouping decides to take advantage to fabricate the witch craft story against the elderly and kill them to satisfy their needs.
In all these scenarios, it is clear that the elderly are placed at a disadvantage, because of the common myth that old people are potentially witches and wizards and that the loss of teeth- as it is often believed- is as a result of eating human fresh. Sadly this though is even accepted by the so-called educated members of our societies by way of either being party to the perpetrators’ side or merely being silent on the matter.
Perhaps it is about time that sanity should be put in our societies by firstly exposing the realities of witchcraft. We don’t just need an ant-witch craft law in place; we also need to have a deeper understanding of the dilemmas the issue is bringing in the contemporary time.
In our conversional books we have expressions like child mortality, and related causes which very well explain factors leading to a particular death.
Sadly these do not make sense when they are masked in the witchcraft myth. Some overzealous community members deliberately or ignorantly, chose to ignore these scientific descriptions and give the cause a human face- sadly of a surviving elderly person, which they eventually target for a kill.
Given that 76% of the people of Malawi are aged 35 and below and a good part of the remaining 24% are aged 35 and 60, does it reasonably explain how only a diminutive percentage could be associated with witchcraft to warrant these brutal deaths?. Is killing of the elderly- if this reasoning is anything to go by- not suppressing information or evidence that can lead to a better understanding of the same?. Should we not be convinced that the killers of the elderly are the ones hiding something that needs to be understood if this vice is to end?
It is about time that Malawians to included human rights organizations should hold hands and address this issue holistically.
Permit me to propose a three-tier approach to this. Firstly, Is the finalization and promulgation of the witch craft act that will take into consideration all social, economic and cultural elements. As a word of caution, we should nonetheless not be dragged into denying the existence of witchcraft, because it is real and in Africa the very fact that we have incidences of witch craft related death is on its own a testimony that it does exist.
We need more awareness on the causes of death and other social issues to de-mystify witchcraft and allow people of different demographic groupings to co-exist. As a country that is significantly religious, issues of old age are well articulated in our religious books like the bible where figures like Moses, Noah, Abraham are said to have died at such an advanced age.
Need I remind the reader of the confession “I shall live long” often touted in our churches. Shall we be happy to be associated with witchcraft when old age is granted by the creator? If not then this is the time to stand up and do something.
Finally we need an integrated and coordinated approach to this. Conferences and /or other forms of gatherings to address this issue should be promoted and more academic and social papers be developed to unmasked this devilish act, and come –up with informed interventions.
There is virtually no evidence suggesting that only old people practice the art, for both the old and the young can be involved. The need for more evidence is therefore imminent.