Mental illness saves defamer

Written by on August 13, 2019


The Chilenje Local Court has dismissed a claim for compensation for defamation of character because the accused person is mentally ill.

Esnea Miti, 56, a businesswoman of Kalingalinga, sued Beatrice Lumamba, 56, a farmer, also of the same area, for calling her a witch. 

Appearing before senior local court magistrate Harriet Mbewe, sitting with presiding local court magistrate Patrick Nyirenda, Miti said in July Lumamba accused her of being a witch.

“Lumamba was telling people in our community that I am a witch, that I am the cause of her illness. On July 15, she brought a call-out to my house,’’ she said.

“I wasn’t at home but my son told me that Lumamba was behaving strangely. He said she had entered the gate and started moving on the ground like a snake before handing over the callout,” she said.

Miti said she went to the police station the following morning with John Banda whom Lumamba had also accused of practicing witchcraft.

They waited for three minutes but she didn’t arrive and the police advised them to take the matter to court.

“The same day, Lumamba, her husband and children came to my yard around 01:00 hours shouting ‘fire! fire!, your witchcraft will end today. I don’t care whether you got your charms from Malawi or what you did. You are the one bewitching me’,’’ Miti testified said.

A few days later, an angry mob of people went to Miti’s house shouting.

They stoned and burnt her house, including the bananas she was selling.

“Those people wanted to kill me and my family because Lumamba had told them that I was a witch,’’ she said.

In her defence, Lumamba said Miti was her friend and they had never had disputes in the past.

“I don’t know what she is claiming because I have been sick. I was hearing voices in my head and talking to myself,” she said.  

“Miti didn’t bother to visit me. My family took me to Chainama Hospital and I was found to be mentally ill. They admitted me and put me on medication,” she said.

Lumamba said as she was speaking, she was still on treatment.

“Maybe I said something, but I don’t remember because I wasn’t normal,” she said.

The court dismissed the claim on grounds that Lumamba is mentally ill, according to the documents she had submitted from Chainama Hospital, but warned her husband to quickly take her to hospital whenever she was unstable because her behaviour had led to Miti’s house being burnt.

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