In Fatima we have had a spate of burglaries, this is obviously very distressing for people. Poverty is such that replacing stolen belongings can be very difficult if not impossible for some people. It is common for Malawians to take justice into their own hands (mob rule). Being suspected of a crime is enough for an individual to be beaten to death.
On Wednesday at 3 am I was woken to the sound of a mob outside my bedroom window, the noise of 30+ people baying for blood is terrifying and something I will not forget for a long time. I opened the curtain to see what was obviously someone being beaten, the mob had clubs, sticks and one had an axe. I stood paralysed for a few moments, I then called my housemate and we tried to decide what to do. We went onto the front porch and tried to shout at the mob, they obviously didn’t listen but one of the medical officers from the hospital who was trying to restrain them told us they had found the thief and they were going to take him to the police. They tied the young man up and marched him towards the hospital. I will never forget that young mans’ look of terror and they marched him past my door. On the way to the hospital the Administrator heard the noise and came out with his gun. He fired into the mob to try and disperse them, this had little effect and the beating continued. By this time they had stripped him naked and the mob was growing my the minute. Another tutor joined him and together they managed to prevent the crowd from killing him. The police were called but were reluctant to come until the administrator told them a police vehicle was being damaged, they then arrived within minutes.
The boy was 17 years old and a known psychiatric patient. He had gone to the guards at the hospital and started throwing stones, he had shouted that he was a thief, his dad forced him to do it and he didn’t want to do it any more. In fact he was not a thief, his father never made him do anything he was delusional and had not been taking his medication. He was well know in the village and at the hospital, someone in that mob must have known but they didn’t care they just wanted revenge for a crime the boy didn’t commit. A similar thing happened, again to an innocent man, about 6 months ago. As yet no action had been taken against any of those involved so I am not hopeful that anything will happen this time.
The whole experience made me feeling very emotional, many of the mob were students that I teach, how could these people that have become my friends do this? I spent quite some time on Thursday crying and I am left feeling very, very sad.