Monday, August 27, 2012


On a moderately mild afternoon of September 26, 1992, a well built white man in dark glasses is driven into Zomba Maximum Prison in a Malawi Government Land Rover.

Clenching his fists, he looks composed but determined to carry out a task on behalf of his client. This is a task that no Malawian can dare carry out.

Wearing a pair of tired jeans and a black short sleeved shirt, he alights from the car and quickly straps a black bag on his shoulder. His mind is focused on one task so he fails to notice a group of villagers wearing somber faces at the dilapidated visitors’ prison longue. 

Accompanied by prison officers, he fades into a dark room at the Eastern corner of the facility.

His “catch” this afternoon is a man in his thirties who was convicted of murdering his uncle in a land dispute in the Central Region district of Dowa.

The “Executioner” readies himself by putting on a pair of black gloves and a brown coat. He signals to four prison warders to walk back and give him some space.

The client is standing on a wooden floor between two poles and has his head covered with a black hood; 20 centimeters above his head is dangling noose.

Five minutes later, the white guy is gone and there is no sign of life in gallows. He closes the chapter for the last legal execution to take place within the borders of Malawi.

Records show that from 1972 to 1993 during Kamuzu Banda's dictatorship a total of 823 were sentenced to death. Out of the 823 convicts, 299 were executed and the remaining ones either died in prison or were pardoned.

On December 18, 2008 and December 21st, 2010, Malawi abstained on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.

Two years later, Malawi became a democracy again (It seems people don’t appreciate that Kamuzu Banda initiated democracy in his first years in office)

The new development automatically opened up a vibrant media forum and within that period government planned to launch its own TV station in 1995.

However, the deal fell through because it is rumored that the equipment that was supposed to be donated here from Malaysia was diverted by one Gambian army officer, Yahya Jammeh, who had grabbed power through a bloodless coup d’├ętat.

We were sleeping so we had to wait for three more years after the “theft” to have our own TV station.
The clever officer was quick to consolidate power through his cunning International Relations schemes.

Since diverting our equipment, Jammeh hasn’t been a fixture on our affairs but last week he said something that cannot be ignored by leaders and policy makers world over including our own Joyce Banda.

In his recent speech, the Gambian leader- whose full name is “Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ   Jammeh”- indicated that his government will hang all the 47 people who are on death row. He did not elaborate but the world started crying.

In Malawi, at least 29 men and women currently sit on death row; however, no one has been executed in the country since the 1992 scenario. Those sentenced to death are entitled to a mandatory appeal in the Supreme Court

Judges in Malawi can still sentence offenders to death; they handed down four or five death penalties in 2010 and with only a few murder trials taking place in 2011 no death penalties were given. However, this year more murder trials are expected in the High Court.

Why does the world seem sympathetic with people who kill their fellow humans?

Human Rights looked at critically; have you ever thought of the emotional pain that people who lose their loved ones go through? Has any research been conducted to hear their views on what should happen to those who gruesomely murdered their loved ones?  

What we seem to have created here is a shadow Truth and Reconciliation Committee which seems to favour murderers only.

Think of the people who are dying mercilessly in recent months.

Think of the Msamala guy who was gruesomely murdered by his houseboy in Soche East.

Draw your mind back to last year’s gruesome murder of Robert Chasowa.

Have we asked their families what they think should be done to the murderers should the courts find them wrong and commit them to hang?

The truth is you can only advocate for the rights of murderers if you haven’t lost a relative through such a gruesome act.

Yahya Jammeh might have “stolen” our TV equipment but there is sense in what he is saying about hanging death row inmates.


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