29 September 2020
Breaking News

CONDEMNATION OF MOB JUSTICE

Written by  Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members of this August House, my Ministry is seriously concerned with the rising incidents of mob justice being perpetrated by some members of the general public across the country. And this is a matter on which my Ministry seeks the full participation and involvement of this August House.

Madam Speaker, I would like to inform and remind every Malawian that under our constitutional framework, different offices are established to deal with crime or the allegation thereof. These offices include: the Malawi Police Service, the Directorate of the Public Prosecutions, the Judiciary and the Malawi Prison Service.  Therefore, when a person feels that a crime has been committed they are expected to report the matter to the Police: the Police have a duty to investigate the matter; the Director of Public Prosecutions is mandated to prosecute the suspect; the Judiciary is duty-bound to hear and determine the matter  in a fair and impartial manner, and where the person is found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment, the Malawi Prison Service is responsible for keeping the person in prison for the duration of the sentence meted out by the Court.  That is how criminal matters are supposed to be dealt with within our criminal justice system.  That is how criminal matters are supposed to be dealt with in a civilized society. That is how criminal matters are supposed to be dealt with under International Conventions. Madam Speaker, no one has the right to take the law into in his or her own hands under the guise of mob justice.

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, when perpetrating mob justice, important tenets of the law such as “a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty” are disregarded.  People taking part in mob justice play the role of a complainant, the Police, the prosecutor and the judge.  Victims of mob justice never have a chance to defend themselves, to explain their side of the story before they are hurt and in most cases, sadly, killed.  That is a travesty of justice.  In fact such actions should not even be referred to as “mob justice” because this is not justice.  It is barbaric. It is criminal.

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, in some cases, the victims of mob justice who have been killed are innocent people who were actually wronged by the unscrupulous person; who in order to cover up his or her wrong-doing, simply shouts “wakuba!” (“a thief!”) and the mob, without even bothering to ascertain  the truth, descends upon the victim, beats him/her up or kills the victim, in some instances by burning the victim. There are actual examples of such events which have taken place in this country, including in Blantyre where a University student who was walking home late in the night and unfortunately was passing through an area where there was attempted break-in into one of the houses and the people in the neighbourhood were searching for the thief, found the young man. They caught the young man, beat him up savagely and the young man died.  The mob refused to listen to the explanations of the young man.  It only transpired to them later that they had killed an innocent student. A young life lost at the instance of “mob justice”.  There are more examples, including the killing of two brothers here in Lilongwe by burning them to death; and when other people realized that those killed were innocent, they burnt up motor cycles of those perceived to be responsible for the killing. We also recall the killing of persons and arson from two neighbouring villages in Nkhatabay; recent killing of a woman by tying her up and throwing her into a well; the  tragic killing of Inspector Imedi; the burning of boats in Makanjira Mangochi; and the cutting down of maize crop in a field in Ntchisi. And the list goes on.

However, Madam Speaker, even in the event of people being caught in the act of committing a crime, like the people who stole goats in Gamba Village and were trying to get away but were caught in Masanya Village where they were burnt to death;  the punishment for theft of a goat is not death.  No private citizen is entitled to administer justice.

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, let us all remember that whether a criminal act, like that of murder, assault or arson is perpetrated by one person or in a group, it remains a crime.  Therefore each and every person suspected to have committed the crime, whether individually or as part of a mob, they are all equally individually liable and will be prosecuted; and when found guilty will be punished appropriately. This may result in a situation where one hundred people are found guilty and sentenced for the murder of one person.

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, I call upon us Malawians, to pause and reflect: for those who participate in mob justice as you use the sticks to hit someone, as you throw stones at someone, as you drop a rock on someone’s head, as you pour petrol on someone and light him up, as you damage someone’s property, all in the name of mob justice, think and imagine how it would be, if the victim was yourself or someone close to you - your son, brother, daughter, father, nephew, etc. against whom such acts were being perpetrated.  Let us reflect and decide what sort of a country we want: a country where there is the law of the jungle or a country where there is rule of law?

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, my Ministry will continue to work diligently with all the agencies in criminal justice system in order to curb this terrible phenomenon of “mob justice”, that is spreading like wildlife in this country.  The impunity of taking the law into ones hands has to be put to an end.  I therefore, call upon members of this August House to enlist the support of traditional leaders and their communities in ending mob justice in Malawi.

 Madam Speaker and Honourable Members of this August House, please take note that I am not condemning mob justice to encourage would-be offenders. Anyone breaking the law should and will face the necessary consequences.  The Police, together with other agencies, will continue to be diligent to ensure that there is law and order in this country and anyone found breaking the law, whether alone or in a group, will be arrested, appropriately prosecuted and the Judiciary will mete out the sentence fitting the crime.

Honourable Speaker and Honourable Members, in conclusion, I call upon all our citizens to be law abiding.  I call upon all Malawians to have regard for the sanctity of life.  And I call upon Malawians to have respect for the rights of our fellow Citizens.  In this way, we will have the conducive environment to channel our energies into developing our lives and ultimately contributing to the development of our beloved Malawi.

I thank you for your attention, Madam Speaker and Honourable Members.

God bless us all, God bless our country.

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