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Witchdoctors and soothsayers fuel sexual offences in Malawi – police

27 March 2016, 12:00 News24 Correspondent

Blantyre - Fooled by witchdoctors and sangomas that the easiest way to attain wealth is through incest and defilement, some men in Malawi are learning their lessons the hard way.

A 36-year-old man from Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, is one of the men who is now in custody on incest charges, said Lilongwe police. 

Police spokesperson, Kingsley Dandaula, told News24 that the superstitious man had been netted for allegedly having sex with his 17-year-old daughter.

“The superstitious man sweet-talked his daughter that they would become rich if he had sex with her. The daughter succumbed to her father's demand. The secret is now out because the daughter is pregnant,” he said.

According to Dandaula, the daughter allegedly told her mother that she had been impregnated by her father. His irate wife, who was married to the man for 18 years reported the matter to the police.

He was then arrested.

The incident is not an isolated case.

Malawi police spokesperson, Nicholas Gondwa, said more than 1 300 men were arrested for defilement and incest crimes last year.

“We are arresting many people because of superstition-related incest and defilement cases. The rate of sexual offences is scary,” Gondwa said.

“Those who for the reason of superstition or male chauvinism will continue to engage in sexual offences should realise one thing: having sex with minors is not a passport to riches but an automatic passport to jail. We will continue arresting them."

Superstitious nation

Columnist Sellina Nkowani, writing for local paper, The Nation, recently branded Malawi "a superstitious nation".

“Malawi is a very superstitious nation… Malawian – educated or uneducated, well-travelled or not are superstitious. The only difference between those in the village and those living in air-conditioned houses in cities, is that the former believes in witchcraft while the latter believes in demons.

"This is why prophets are mushrooming everywhere and I have to say they are also doing quite well in urban area – both in brainwashing and making money,” opined Nkowani.

She added, “Sometime back, I visited a friend. What I found shocked me to the core. I found my friend in the middle of praying and casting out demons in a cockroach. According to my good friend, cockroaches are used by the devil to attack people. Forget that this friend’s place is usually untidy, hence inviting cockroaches. That’s the level of superstition apparent in Malawi.”

Superstitions have created a fertile ground for tricksters who masquerade as witchdoctors. The tricksters entice Malawians into believing that the easiest route to success and prosperity is through the use of magic.

Falling prey to trickery

With advertisements offering apparent solutions to all kinds of challenges placed in newspapers and on social media, many Malawians are falling prey to the trickery.

An advert posted on the Facebook wall of one witchdoctor reads, “The following will never succeed without the power of sandawana (charms). Sandawana can help you to achieve your goal in life be it business growth, winning elections, getting promotion at work, winning lottery, becoming a famous prophet and even winning court cases.”

It is only when one visits the witchdoctors that certain conditions are outlined as part of get-rich-quick charms. Some are ordered to have sex with their children, parents or relatives. Others are even told to get private parts to be used as activating agents (chizimba) for the charms.

The witchdoctor inevitably disappears after payment while the unsuspecting victims have to deal with the consequences.

Kendulo Pangaunye, the chairperson of the International Traditional Medicine Council of Malawi, told News24 in an interview that most Africans were usually conned because of their long-held superstitions.

He, however, disclosed that it was easy to identify tricksters.

“Genuine herbalists spend their time administering plants [with] medicinal ingredients to the sick while quack witchdoctors concentrate on lying to the people about how to get rich quick. Others are involved in soothsaying,” he said.  

“Africans should know that charms to success are innovation, creativity, hard work and determination and nothing else. If the quacks and the soothsayers knew charms for easy riches, why don’t they become millionaires themselves in the first place? I don’t understand why the educated and the rich are conned by poverty-stricken witchdoctors. As Africans, are we that stupid?”

Power factor

While some blame witchdoctors for fuelling sexual offences such as incest, defilement and rape, Dr Chiwoza Bandawe, a University of Malawi psychologist, offered a different explanation.

He said even in societies where people were not as superstitious as Africans, sexual offences still occurred.

Bandawe has since attributed the problem to psychological power in men who always crave dominance over women.

“Usually it is about power. Men who sexually abuse women want to show power because in defilement, incest or rape, there is humiliation on the part of the victim,” said Bandawe.

- News24


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