Malawi Police in Balaka are keeping in custody two Apostolic Church elders for allegedly kidnapping a 13 year-old boy.
Balaka police public relations officer, Inspector Joseph Sauka, said Davie Phiri, 38, and Gideon Dzonzi, 27, were arrested after a complaint that they had been keeping a child without the consent of his parents.
According to Sauka, Catherine Njanji has a form one child who in October this year attended one of the preaching sessions by the two suspects’ team and thereafter he dropped out of school and escaped from his home to join the congregation.
The parents later withdrew their son from the congregation and enrolled him at a private secondary school in Lilongwe where he also escaped, allegedly with the support of the accused.
Teachings of the Seventh Day Apostolic Church do not allow children to attend school, get employed or take medicine when they are sick and according to Sauka, this is what irked the complainant.
The parents were barred from taking the child when they went to a place where the members of the church had camped in Balaka until the parents later went with the police who arrested the suspects on abduction charges. The law states that any person who unlawfully takes, retains, or conceals a child without the consent of his or her parents or without the consent of any other person who has custody of the child, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for 10 years. Last week, the suspects pleaded not guilty to the abduction charge.
Abduction is contrary to Section 78 of the Child Care Protection and Justice Act of 2010. Phiri comes from Malemia village, Traditional Authority Ngabu in Chikwawa while his co- accused Dzonzi is from Malandani village, Traditional Authority Mpama in Chiradzulu district.
The team of the Seventh day Apostolic Church members is still camping at Mtalika village in Balaka district, defying a Balaka second grade magistrate court order to vacate the land as it does not belong to them.
Members of the Seventh Day Apostolic Church do not build church structures, but move from one place to the other, camping for months or years on places which, according to Phiri, the Lord provides them.
They camped in Salima for a year before moving to Balaka where they have been for about ten months now.