As the debate on whether Malawi should practically utilize the death penalty on convicted killers of people with albinism continues, a shadow councillor for Chibanja Ward has suggested that giving the stiffest penalty in the land is what will end the increasing cases of ritual murders of people with albinism.
Myths that body parts of people with albinism work in lucky charms for fortune and power-seekers have fanned brutal attacks on people with albinism in the country. Media reports indicate that over 20 people have been murdered, hundreds mutilated while many have gone missing since the killings began in 2014.
United Democratic Front (UDF) shadow Councillor for Chibanja Ward Ulia Kaunda Kaunda made the suggestion on Friday at a political debate for ward councillors organized by the National Initiative for Civic Education NICE (Trust) held at New Jerusalem Private Primary School in Mzuzu.
The debate attracted three participants; Lillian Kadango of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Chimwemwe Mhango an Independent candidate and Kaunda.
The shadow councillor promised to lobby for the utilization of the death sentence for those found guilty of killing a person with albinism.
Said Kaunda: “This is a difficult issue. It is not right for a person to be killing other people just like that and these cases have been left for too long without finding the real killers and without any convictions while people with smaller crimes get stiff sentences.
“I will protect all people with albinism in Chibanja, when I am elected. I will also meet the Member of Parliament and ask him to push for the death penalty on anyone who kills persons.”
Kaunda, a businessman, however, sent people laughing when he failed to articulate himself in English and had to ask the moderator, Emmanuel Lawyer, to allow him to speak in the vernacular Chichewa or Tumbuka.
“Sir, I will not speak English because my supporters do not speak English, they are not English. I will speak Chitumbuka or Chichewa,” said Kaunda.
Still, Independent candidate Chimwemwe Mhango concurred with Kaunda on the need for the death penalty to be applied on albino killers.
But the MCP shadow Councillor Lillian Kadango said that she would focus on strengthening community policing efforts to ensure that people with albinism are protected by the community.
While some activists in Malawi feel that if applied, the existing death penalty law could deter the syndicates involved in the abduction and killings of people with albinism.
Human rights agencies such as the United Nations, through the United Nations Development Programme are against the death penalty saying such punishments will only lead to further dehumanization of people.
At the close of the debate in Chibanja the three panelists and local leaders signed social contracts aimed at ensuring that the councillors adhere to their campaign promises when elected.
Apart from killings of people with albinism, escalating child-prostitution, mushrooming of illegal bars and high youth unemployment rates are some of the major issues that people in Mzuzu are asking candidates in the May 21 Tripartite Elections to take a clear stand.
The Chibanja debate was part of a series of 21 debates being organized by NICE and other electoral stakeholders in Mzuzu City and Mzimba North aimed at promoting unity and tolerance among Malawians and to offer the electorate a chance to assess the would-be political leaders before polling on May 21.