Village headman arrested for killing wife over witchcraft


Police in Dedza are keeping in custody three people including a village headman for stoning to death the chief’s wife in 2019 over witchcraft accusations.

Dedza Police deputy spokesperson Cassim Manda has confirmed the arrest of the suspects today.

The suspects are identified as Isaac Gwirize who is village head Simenti, 42, Benson Leman, 20, and Grace Leman, 22, all from Simenti village in the area of traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza district.

It is alleged that on Saturday, 28 December, 2019, the three killed a woman identified as Namatunga Tisauke Phiri accusing her of bewitching her sister-in law who died at Mtendere Mission Hospital after a short illness.

The murdered woman, Phiri, was also the village headman’s wife. On 24 December, 2019 she went to her husband’s house to discuss a possible reunion since the two had separated in January, 2019, and the village headman Simenti had married another woman.

On that particular day, it is reported that the Phiri accused her sister-in law, Gilberta Gwirize, of interfering with her marriage hence causing the separation.

On 27 December, Gilberta fell sick and was taken to the hospital where she died while receiving malaria treatment.

Gilberta’s children and Phiri’s husband village head Simenti speculated that Phiri bewitched her.

On the day of burial, village head Simenti sent three messages to Phiri asking her to attend the funeral. Simenti convinced her that all misunderstandings that erupted previous day had been resolved.

After being convinced that she would be protected, Phiri then attended the funeral of her sister-in-law.

When funeral procession time ticked off, as per Chewa’s tradition, a chief’s wife is supposed to be first dancer before Gulewamkulu especially when the one who died is related to chief.

But when she did the same as per agreement with husband, the three suspects rose against her and stoned her to death.

Police investigated the matter but no arrests were made. On 20 September, 2020 Dedza officer-in charge, George Tobias Chikhungu, introduced a corps d’elite initiative which among others is aimed to thoroughly investigate all previous mob justice cases and the arrest of those who took part in the killing of innocent people.

The initiative is aimed at restoring Dedza to be free district from this heinous crime.

This has so far led to the arrest of the three suspects  as well as  three others who took part in last month’s killing of a 70-year-old woman at Fumbwa.