Draft of  new Malawi witchcraft law ready in 4 months

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Lawyer Mike Chinoko from Malawi Law Comission

LILONGWE (MalawiTalk) – Officials from the Malawi Law Commission say a draft Witchcraft legislation aimed at dealing decisively with the increasing murders of witchcraft suspects will be ready in four months time.

Deputy Law Reform officer at the commission Mr Mike Chinoko has confirmed.

The new Witchcraft legislation will replace 1911 Witchcraft Act which was enacted on May 12 1911 and premised on the belief that witchcraft does not exist in the country.

The Witchcraft Act forbids any trial by ordeal that involves ‘poison, fire, boiling water, or . . . any ordeal which is likely directly or indirectly to result in the death of or bodily injury to any person’.

The Act also forbids accusing anyone of being a witch or practising witchcraft, employing a ‘witch finder’ to identify ‘the perpetrator of any alleged crime or other act complained of,’ and representing oneself as ‘a wizard or witch or as having or exercising the power of witchcraft’.

Chinoko said the draft legislation follows a rigorous consultative process that at some point received severe criticism from various stakeholders who felt it would never materialise into anything.

According to the Malawi Law Commission, the review process has been concluded and a report will be published and presented to relevant authorities for possible adoption by Cabinet.

Chinoko said that after presenting the report, the onus would now be on cabinet to take the bill to Parliament for debate and adoption.

Researchers Chi Adanna Mgbako and Katherine Glenn, in an article Witchcraft Accusations and Human Rights: Case Studies from Malawi, found that the Act, however, does not explicitly criminalise the practice of witchcraft, but effectively does so by its prohibition on ‘pretending witchcraft’ and outlawing the occupation of ‘witch finder or witchdoctor’.

However, despite its clarity, the implementation of the Act-judging by contradictions on arrests, trials and also increased cases of witchcraft-related violence-seems to be problematic.

Lawyer Mike Chinoko from Malawi Law Comission

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