George Thindwa Stops Mob Witch Hunt in Malawi

George and three "witches" he helped free

To celebrate my birthday, I will post this incredible account of my friend, George Thindwa’s recent attempt to thwart a mob style with hunt in Malawi. Given how many people were in attendence and the large scale nature of the hunt, George could have easily been killed. The man knows absolutely no fear.

For those not in the know, George is the head of the Malawi Association of Secular Humanists. He works tirelessly as an advocate for people who have been accused (some are even jailed) of withcraft related crimes and as a spokesman for human rights, rationality, atheism and secular government in Malawi.

George’s story is almost unbelievable, but disturbingly real. Please consider donating to help George’s cause. Even the smallest amount of money goes a long way to help pay for legal fees and to provide support for those imprisoned under some of the most horrific conditions imaginable. There is a donation button on the right corner of this page.

WITCH HUNT IN CHINOKO VILLAGE, LILONGWE –STOPPED, CHIEFS ARRESTED. CHIEFS DETAIN AND CHARGE THINDWA, PAYS THE MK 5000 FINE AND RELEASED

On 1st June, I went to deliver N. Kamphata, the oldest elderly woman prisoner at her village at T/A Chumutu, Dowa who was released on witchcraft offence.

On my way back, I was informed that there was a witch hunt at Chinoko village, T/A Chimutu about 15 kms from Kanengo on Lilongwe- Salima road. I decided to investigate. Indeed, the witch hunt was in full swing with the witch finder named Boston (25- 30 yrs old) doing searches of witchcraft charms. By the time I arrived at the village, the witch finder was at the grave yard. It is alleged that a “witch” by the name of Frazer Kaphanga had hidden his charms at the grave. There were many people at the grave site with drumming and singing.

Note the large crowd at the with hunt


I managed to join the crowd and took pictures. I went into the graveyard where some people had gone to watch the witch finder digging the charm of Mr. Frazer. At the grave, I found the witch finder busy with his act and within a short time; he managed to bring out the charm. He showed it to the crowd claiming that it was a rat that Frazer uses to steal money from other people. Then, Mr. Frazer was detained at the camp smeared with flour all over his face as witch.

Accused "witch," Kwajere, faced smeared with flour

Next, the witch finder went to the house of an old lady by the name of Kwajere, Ms Mukhalepo Chinsapo (80). I followed and took pixies. At the house the old lady was very disturbed and confused. She was smeared with flour on her face and asked to stand in the middle of a circle so that the witch finder could search her house for charms. The old lady noticed that my mission was different. She faced in desperation clearly asking me in her heart so that I should her help. I went closer and took her hand and whispered to her that I will indeed rescue her at the appropriate time. I assured her that my mission there was to help such vulnerable people and her request would be answered.

I left and went aside to call the police to come and stop this illegal practice. The police headquarters told me to contact the Kanengo police. The community security men were alerted by the witch finder that my presence there was suspect. He briefly suspended his work and told them to bring me to him. The security men wanted to harass me. I resisted and told them that I had no time to go to the witch finder but to the Group Village man. At this time, I alerted my relations and humanists friends about this unfolding drama.

6 of the people accused at Chinoko


We went to the camp where the Group Village headman –Chinoko Kawenga was supposed to be. He was not there. But all the chiefs were there. At the camp, there were 10 “witches” by that time, surrounded by people. Kwajere, Ms Chinsapo was dragged to the camp while I was there. One could not help to shed a tear to see live how the people labeled as witches are victimized and mistreated. Mostly it is the elderly and women. Here are their names:

1. Mr. Kaphanga Frazer- is said to have a charm in the form of a rat for enrichment.

2. Mr. Boswell Kamuseza-the witch doctor was yet to visit his house to find the charms

3. Mr. Nasoni Kacholora-is said to have a charm to steal manhood from others.

4. Ms Naphiri Nabanda-is said to have a charm for tying pregnancies leading to still births.

5. Ms Moneyi Makata-her charm moved and was found to be at someone`s house.

6. Ms Mukhalepo Chinsapo-Kwajere- very old woman and her charm was found in the roof of the house. This is a very old woman possibly 80 see her photo.

7. Mr. Herbert Kupenga

8. Ms Nankhoma Genitla

9. Ms Anasani Jojo- her charm was said to cause measles to others

10. Ms Angela Mawumusamathe

11. Mr. Kumbali Kamuseza
I was told that once the witch finder had finished his searches of charms, he would come to the camp to deliver his final verdict on the “witches” in terms of punishment!

The chiefs told me that I was being charged with 3 offences: of taking pictures, of entering the grave yard without permission and attending the witch hunt without permission. I was fined to pay MK 13000 ($85). I negotiated this down to MK 5000($32) and paid.

I was destined to stop the witch hunt and to have those in captive released. I went to the captives when I was discharged on my own greeted them one by one and assured them that their freedom was at hand. I went to Mchezi roadblock at Kanengo and told the police about the witch hunt and they quickly phoned their superior to dispatch the 997 immediately. By 8 pm, the police arrived in full gear and we went to the village. At the village when police presence was noticed, people run in all the directions. All the chiefs, two lieutenants of the witch finder were taken for police questioning at Kanengo police. The witch finder disappeared and he was nowhere to be seen. Up to now he is nowhere.

As at 2nd June, 4 chiefs have been arrested and detained at Kanengo police; four lieutenants of the witch doctor are detained. The arrested chiefs are Kalumbu Byton, Chinoko 2, Nachimbo Chapotela and Kachiundu. The police went back on 2nd June to look for the witch finder and brought back two lieutenants of the witch finder. They did not find the witch finder.

The so called witches came to the police to give statement on 2nd June. I was with them. Some due to old age could not make it. I managed to deliver them back to their village especially the very old. At the village the situation is calm now. Some villagers did thank me for helping them and stopping the witch hunt.

Regards

George Thindwa 2/6/2011

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About Pete Larson

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

4 responses to “George Thindwa Stops Mob Witch Hunt in Malawi”

  1. Harold Williams says :

    Yes, we are proud that George is a brave and fearless warrior. Can you imagine I am 320km away and get a cryptic text message that he has been detained at a witchhunt on the Salima Road (anywhere on an 80km stretch) at the chief’s court (unspecified). So I raised the alarm by phone, email, Facebook to galvanise support and investigation. Initially I couldn’t get through to his phone. Eventually, much to my relief, I did get through to him after his release and was able to cancel the alarm. I have begged him to let us know EXACTLY where he is whenever he moves in on a potentially dangerous escapade. His photos are the most graphic so far. How anyone can be unmoved by the plight of these poor old people I am unable to understand. Thanks, Pete for your continuing support.

  2. Teri Sequeira says :

    It is sad to see such things happen in the 21st Century especailly to old vulnerable people. It is inspiring to have George out there – one a “one man crusade” – trying to get to these remote areas with limited funds and facing hostility and abuse in many cases. Help and support is always welcome.

  3. Teri Sequeira says :

    It is sad to see such things happen in the 21st Century especailly to old vulnerable people. It is inspiring to have George out there – one a “one man crusade” – trying to get to these remote areas with limited funds and facing hostility and abuse in many cases. Help and support is always welcome.

    To the webmaster – if you are on Fbook – look me up and I will invite you into the group to support this project

  4. henry mdyetseni says :

    im badly looking for george something similar is happening right now where i live
    it has been going on for a week people are being victimised how can i find george im in lilongwe
    i can be contacted on 0888378612 country code 265

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