The Malawi Network of Older Persons’ Organizations (MANEPO), a consortium of civil society organizations advocating for the rights of older citizens, is raising its voice against the continued discrimination, abuse, and even murder of older persons in Malawi, allegedly linked to witchcraft accusations.
MANEPO is deeply disturbed by the recent case involving 90-year-old Felister Kwakhwali, who was reportedly harassed and insulted in her home village in Mulanje district on July 29, 2023. This incident follows the brutal murder of 64-year-old Smart Zangado, who was allegedly killed by his own son on accusations of witchcraft in Chikwawa District on August 1, 2023.
These incidents reflect a concerning trend, as 14 older persons have been killed under similar circumstances since the beginning of the year, according to MANEPO.
The organization is keen to remind Malawians that the country’s constitution guarantees the right to human dignity and personal freedoms to all citizens. Moreover, the Witchcraft Act does not recognize the existence of witchcraft and criminalizes the act of accusing someone of practicing it. Despite this, elderly citizens continue to face discrimination and are often the victims of human rights abuses.
In response to these disturbing trends, MANEPO is issuing a call to action, urging:
- Parliament to pass the Older Persons Bill, which aims to protect the elderly from discrimination, abuse, and harassment.
- The Malawi Police Service to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those involved in the harassment and murder of Kwakhwali and Zangado.
- The courts to expedite cases involving witchcraft allegations and mete out appropriate punishments.
- Traditional and religious leaders to educate their communities on the harm caused by victimizing older persons over witchcraft allegations.
- Citizens to report incidents of discrimination and abuse of the elderly to the relevant authorities.
The organization emphasizes that it is everyone’s responsibility to protect and uphold the rights of older citizens. Through collective efforts, MANEPO believes that Malawi can ensure a dignified, healthy, and secure life for its elderly population.