Malawi ‘vampirism’ mania spreads

Since September, a vampire scare has triggered mob violence in Malawi that has killed at least eight people accused of being blood suckers including two killings reported in the second city, Blantyre on Thursday (October 19). The vampire rumours appear to have originated in neighbouring Mozambique, although it was not clear what had sparked them. Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi and authorities say they are struggling to convince the population that the vampire rumours are anything but true.

MULANJE, MALAWI (RECENT) (REUTERS) – At a small cemetery in the rural district of Mulanje, Malawi, residents have gathered to pay their respects at the funeral of Christy Namate and her 32-year-old son John Paul.

Christy’s grandmother, Esnat Kondani says her granddaughter and her great grandson were accused of being vampires before they were beaten to death by an angry mob.

“My grand-daughter was with her son who was carrying a bag on his back. It had so many pockets and among the items he was carrying was an inflatable mattress. When the angry villagers saw that and the special drinking bottle he was holding they thought he was a blood sucker, a vampire and they started beating him and killed them both,” said Kondani.

“We were called and told to collect the two suspected blood suckers. We have buried them here. We are very devastated and shocked. We are just waiting for justice to prevail,” said family member Damiano Mtaka.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi.

This is not the first time vigilante violence linked to vampire rumours has erupted here. It happened before in 2002.

This time the rumours have triggered mob violence that has killed at least six people accused of vampirism in Phalombe and Mulanje districts.

The wave of attacks has also spread to Malawi’s second-biggest city of Blantyre, where vigilante mobs killed two people, police said on Thursday (October 19.

A United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) report said mobs searching for vampires have been mounting road blocks.

Some UN staff have been pulled out of affected districts sighting security concerns.

Local media reported parents storming a school in Balaka district to take their children home because they had heard blood suckers were coming.

Residents of Mulanje say they live in fear and are calling on the government to guarantee safety.

“This is a sad development because we are living in constant fear. Our movements are regulated. We cannot walk in the night because even those that have been asked to patrol the villages are beating anyone they meet. Some of these people are just thieves,” said Mulanje resident, Mischek Nganga.

Malawian President Peter Mutharika said the reports were “distressing and agonizing”.

Area senior chief Chikumbu says she is struggling to shut down the rumours but also blames the attacks on a criminal gang seeking to terrorize residents.

“I have tried to convince them, I am convincing them. I am trying telling this group but still people are not taking it because of some gang leaders who are spreading the news so I want, in fact I even talked to the council. Why cant we just pick up the ring leaders and ask them how they feel about this story. How they know about this story. They should come to the open and tell people. They are just spreading the rumours there and making people to live in fear. People are living in fear just because if them,” she said.

The vampirism rumours appear to have originated in neighbouring Mozambique, although it was not clear what had sparked them.

Mulanje District Commissioner, Reighard Chavula said it was difficult to address the killings without having to break down generations-long belief in the supernatural.

“People feel like allegations to do with witchcraft and magic should not be disputed, should be taken as true and with the already belief that is there in witchcraft, the fear that is there in witchcraft, this rumour has just found fertile ground to thrive,” said Chavula.

People with albinism are often attacked, their body parts chopped off for rituals. The body parts of albinos – who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes – are believed to bring wealth and good luck and are prized in witchcraft for use in charms and magical potions.