THE WITCHCRAFT STORY OF FOSNA LEKITALA- NOVEMBER, 2010

This is from George Thindwa of the Malawi Secular Humanist Society, of which I appear to be a member. He is an advocate for women who have been accused of witchcraft in Malawi as well as a tireless and rational voice for those who believe that religion has no place in politics.

Malawi, along with most Sub-Saharan African countries suffers from widespread societal problems associated with baseless witchcraft accusations (see here for another post I did on witchcraft in Malawi). The accused are most often poor and elderly women, but children of either sex have often been implicated. In the worst case, the accused are beaten and burned by members of the community, but otherwise, they fall victim to local or state judicial systems.

Women who are accused of witchcraft are often tried and imprisoned on shaky grounds, with nothing more than the uncorroborated testimony of troubled individuals, and worse, the testimony of children. Fact here is much stranger (and more disturbing) than fiction:

Case no 176/10-Senior Grade Magistrate Court- Lilongwe

Fosna Lekitala was charged with two counts; Pretending Witchcraft and Unlawful wounding of Esau James as at 6/11/2010. Fosna Lekitala pleaded not guilty when the case came before the Magistrate in Lilongwe, Malawi on 9th Nov. 2010. Judgment on the case was delivered on 16th Nov. 2010. Mr. GeorgeThindwa, the Executive Director, Association of Secular Humanism was present during the judgment on 16-11-2010.

The State paraded 4 witnesses who revealed the following:

1. That Fosna was a witch. She had 10 seater magic plane which she used to take people to graveyards to feast on human flesh.

2. On the night of 5-6th November, Isaac James refused to accompany Fosna to participate in witchcraft. The boy is stabbed.

3. A Mr. Blackson-a witness -testified that the child was injured by a basket and that it was at the hospital that he revealed that it was Fosna that had wounded him during the night.

4. The boy in his testimony stated to the nurse at the hospital when he went for treatment that it was FOSNA that had wounded him.

5. The Police report stated that Fosna had agreed to stabbing the boy with a knife disguised as a washing basket.

Fosna defended herself by stating that she was on her way to draw water when she was confronted with the case of wounding Esau James through witchcraft. She denied practicing witchcraft. Her witnesses; her son and husband, collaborated her claims that she was not practicing witchcraft nor that she was witch.

MAGISTRATE`S OBSERVATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

The Magistrate –Mr. Ngoma- advised the court that it was an offense to accuse anyone of being a witch. He then went on deliver his judgment on the two counts purported to have been committed by Fosna Lekitala.

1. Unlawful wounding

The Magistrate noted that Isaac James was wounded. But went on to address the question of whether the wound was caused by witchcraft or not. Since the Law does not recognize witchcraft, he said that he was acquitting Fosna on unlawful wounding by witchcraft means.

2. Pretending Witchcraft

The Magistrate observed that Fosna had continuously denied pretending witchcraft all through her ordeal at her place of residence- Chiuzira Village.

However, he observed that Fosna admitted to pretending witchcraft from the statement that was recorded by the police. Therefore, he found Fosna guilty on pretending witchcraft.

The magistrate said that Fosna was beaten up and had her property destroyed at her residence on 6-11-2010. In these circumstances, he stated that he could not proceed to convict her but discharge her accordingly. He directed that the Police should facilitate her reallocation to her village in Nkhoma in Lilongwe.

With approval from the Kawale Police, Mr. Thindwa of ASH accompanied by one police Officer delivered Fosna (with her husband, sister and her two children who came to attend to her judgment to Nkhoma, some 50 kms away from Lilongwe.

The story of FOSNA as we see it -in brief

Esau James was injured by a basket during the night at his home. The sharp edges of the basket showed blood stains- it was tendered as evidence at the court. The parents took the boy to Kawale hospital for treatment. At the hospital when the nurse posed the question of how the wound came about, Essau James twists the story and alleges it is a witchcraft wound. He accuses Fosna Lekitala as being responsible. He commits a crime by this naming!

Fosna wakes up on 6-11-2010 and goes about with her daily chores. At about midday or thereabouts, some villagers including the area chief confront her that she has caused a witchcraft wound to one neighbor’s boy, Esau James. She is beaten up as a witch, and locked up for a beating.

The father of the child shields away her attackers and from the full fury of the mob justice. The 997 Police are called and rescues her and takes her to Kawale Police. At Kawale Police, she was quizzed, put in a cell for 3 days and charged for pretending witchcraft after being accused of being a witch. Her accusers went free without being charged! Those who beat her up were never charged as well.

TV Malawi is called to interview her about witchcraft. She appeared on TVM on Tuesday morning on 16th November, 2010 to talk about witchcraft.

Attached is the picture of Fosna Lekitala at the yard of the court on 16-11-2010. With Mr. Thindwa in the middle. Her two sons and the husband. Fosna has five children.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

2 responses to “THE WITCHCRAFT STORY OF FOSNA LEKITALA- NOVEMBER, 2010”

  1. georgethindwa says :

    Fosna and her family are now happily at their home. What is sad is that it is the accuser that should be charged, that is how our Law is framed. Our Malawi Police did not help her but ended up charging her instead.Sad and the situation here is as reported above

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