*BY MEEKNESS BANDA in Blantyre AND STEVE TAONA MKANDAWIRE in Zomba.*
Many Malawians are resorting to mob justice against suspects of theft, witchcraft and other crimes. The victims are mostly burnt to ashes or beaten up to death in cold blood .
Police and human rights advocates are worried about the escalation of such incidents, and are seriously warning the perpetrators against the vice.
_MEEKNESS and STEVE_ have been exploring what fuels the malpractice and report:
Dozens of villagers , some carrying used tyres and petrol jeracanes, in Chiswe within BCA residential area in the commercial city of Blantyre descended on a popular Bottlestore in the area to set ablaze a young man , alleged to have attempted breaking a bottle store.
Our reporters witnessed the merciless killing of the man whose particulars could not yet be established.
Police could not show up at the incident, and onlookers told our team that this was the third case to occur in space of a month.
Just some distance away from the incident, a suspected robber broke into a house of 24 year old lady identified as Salifya Lisa Chikoja and stabled her to death in Zingwangwa township. The alleged robber went away with the deceased's phone and left her in a pool of blood.
"We can't even sleep peacefully for fear of losing our lives to robbers like Lisa because they mostly attack houses at night. The police need to think of our security's from these predators first before stoping us to revenge when ever we catch them," said Janet Mbisa , a concerned resident.
The mob argued that they have been resorting to mob justice due to faluire by the formal justice system to stop such crimes .
"We feel our action is justified", says one of the perpetrators of the lynching of the deceased but refused to be named for fear of reprisals.
"If we had waited for the police to pick him up we would have started seeing him around two or three days later because these people bribe the police to be released on bail."
The eye witnesses further claimed that the mob has also been targeting the police whenever they come to rescue the suspects due to the perpetrators' "bribe" perception against the police .
But James Kadadzera, the National Police Spokesperson denies the bribery allegations. He instead calls on the media to help in sensitizing communities on the country's legal system to clear their corruption perception about the police.
"I'm sure as a journalist you asses what tells you and you can be helping us to clear such perceptions since you know how criminal offences go on legally," said Kadadzera.
For instance, the Police Spokesperson says once a suspect is handed over to the law enforcers , he or she is being taken to court for prosecution or trial .
"It's for the court to determine whether the suspect is guilty or not during trail, and that the prosses will determine if he has to be convicted or acquitted, and not the police hence we request the media to help in Civic educating the masses on such misconceptions," he said.
Kadadzera observed that mob justice interferes evidence or investigations by the police against the crime suspects.
"For instance, if the suspect is linked to ten more criminals and you kill him it means you have concealed evidence of the rest hence we ask you to always report the suspects to police for legal process."
Kadadzera further warns perpetrators of mob justice and arrested and face the law.
Jackson Msiska, a northen based social commentator , however, argues that mob justice cases are fuelled by The increase ignorance of the masses and government lack of seriousness to tackle the mob justice crime.
" In the first place, let us agree that most of the population in Malawi is ignorant about the laws of the land, in this respect people feel like it's not a crime to do mob justice.
"To end such practices,it non other than civic educating the masses so that they understand doing such is against the law, not only that but also there should be an active judicial system which in turn should ensure that the citizenry are satisfied with how it is handling such cases without any delay or favor, Msiska says.
Msiska calls for political will of the government to ensure that justice law breakers are protected by the law,also that justice is observed in the judiciary.