Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
IF YOU ask for my opinion on the gruesome attack against a seven year-old albino girl of Kitwe last week, I would say the attackers do not deserve to live.
They ought to hang by their necks until pronounced dead by a qualified medical doctor.
I hope that would be the verdict of the court of law when the long arm of the law catches up with the three men who abducted the little girl and hacked off her forearm.
Wherever the trio are, they should be smoked out of their hidey-hole to face justice, before the culture of killing people with albinism gets deeply entrenched into the minds of desperate Zambians.
Desperate for what? You may ask. It’s wealth. Some of our brothers and sisters believe that albinos are superhumans whose body parts could be used in money rituals. Some people are so desperate for the ill-gotten wealth that if it means shedding blood to get rich, they will do it without caring whether their victims survive or die in the process.
That’s exactly what they did to seven-year-old Dorothy Mulenga – they just cut off her arm with a machete and fled, while her mother watched helplessly. They did not care whether the little girl, a Grade One pupil at Mutupa Community School, bled to death or not because they value wealth more than human life.
The attackers entered the victim’s house in Mutupa farm area in Kitwe at mid-night, while she was sleeping with her sibling in one room and their parents were fast asleep in another room.
On sensing danger from the intruders, the children screamed for help and their mother rushed in, only to find that the attackers had grabbed her little girl.
The woman of rare courage tried to advance towards the assailants, but they shoved her off with a bicycle.
When the three goons jumped through the widow with the little girl, the woman jumped too and pursued them, hoping to rescue her daughter.
It was during that process that one of the assailants pulled out a machete and chopped off the girl’s arm while her mother watched helplessly.
Obviously it was a hair-raising experience for this woman – watching the attackers ruthlessly slicing off the girl’s arm, and then seeing her beloved daughter enduring that near-death ordeal in a pool of blood.
To cut the long story short, the girl ended up in the Intensive Care Unit at Kitwe Teaching Hospital where she is recuperating.
As if that was not bad enough, an albino man, aged 39, was murdered the same week in a suspected ritual attack in Nyimba district.
The killers of Gift Tembo have confessed that they hired assassins to kill the man because they wanted his bones for rituals. Four people have since been arrested in this case, two of them a man and his wife.
After that, I discovered that a lot of hate crimes have been committed in the recent past against people with albinism.
For example, a 36-year-old albino man was found dead in Mandevu in December 2015 with his forearm missing; the same year an albino woman aged 37 was murdered in Lundazi. A young woman aged 19 had her forearm cut off in Chama in 2017, while in July this year, a 73-year-old albino woman of Mpika was found dead with fingers and one tooth missing.
Apart from that, a number of people with albinism have escaped ritual attacks.
In my view, this signifies that ritual attacks against people with albinism in Zambia have reached a new high. We need to stop these senseless attacks, otherwise the safety of other albinos in our communities is not guaranteed.
In the past, we never saw gruesome attacks of people with albinism. Of course stigma and discrimination was there, and gossip too, about the myths that people had about albinism.
I think with time, people came to realise that people with albinism were just as human as anyone else. Skin colour cannot make anyone superior or inferior to their colleague with a different skin tone.
But all of a sudden, we are seeing a wave of hate crimes against albinos that are common in other countries in the Great Lakes regions, such as Tanzania and Malawi.
It means people with albinism will now be living in fear and therefore will not be able to participate in community activities.
Already some parents of albino children aren’t allowing their kids to attend school because, according to the Albino Foundation of Zambia, their safety is not guaranteed, apart from the stigma and discrimination they already face in schools.
Only a fortnight ago, I was castigating parents who were refusing their albino children from attending school on the basis of insecurity in the communities to desist from doing is.
I said parents ought to let the children attend school so that they too could benefit from the inherent socio-economic benefits of education.
The best parents could do, I said, was to help their children develop a thick skin against possible bullying in schools. Then schools needed to make their environments friendly to all learners.
But sadly, a week later, two albinos were attacked in the most ruthless fashion, with one succumbing to the attack and the Grade One girl miraculously escaping death.
And at the centre of it all are witch doctors who are misleading gullible people among us that the arm of an albino is a magic potion for wealth.
Some people are so easy to fool that they will do anything a witch doctor says, whether or not it makes sense.
If you look at the current trend of men raping little girls, including breastfeeding babies in diapers, it is all because witch doctors say it could cure HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
This is the reason why some men have been caught having sex with little girls; too young to give anyone sexual pleasure.
It is amazing how gullible some men could be to think that sex with a virgin could cure HIV when there is no scientific connection whatsoever.
How powerful are these witch doctors that whatever they say is regarded as gospel truth by people presumed to be in the catalogue of right-thinking members of our society?
Now, because witch doctors are saying that albinos’ body parts have supernatural power to boost business, we have seen four albinos having their limbs dismembered in a space of four years.
Some of you may recall the case of 19-year-old Mirriam Kumwenda of Chikwa village in Chama district who in 2017 had her forearm cut-off in similar fashion as the seven-year-old girl of Kitwe.
Like the little girl, Mirriam, at the time a Grade 7 pupil at Mangwere Primary School, was also sleeping in the night when body parts traders broke into her house to abduct her.
They cut off her left arm and left. She too was in a critical condition after the attack and only survived after spending a month in Chama District Hospital.
Mirriam’s mutilated arm was recovered in Malawi at the point of sale to a businessman there.
I think all patriotic Zambians need to stand up and denounce witch doctors that have turned brother against sister, and vice versa.
People need to learn to interrogate what witch doctors tell them against morality, common sense or society’s common good. That notwithstanding, all those who commit crimes against humanity must be made to pay by law. I hope that when they are caught, the jury will impose the most severe punishment for these crimes against humanity.
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Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA