Parliament takes on mob justice

Bright Msaka, SC

It happened again on Saturday, a 49-year old man was killed by a mob in a village in Nkhata Bay on suspicion that he stole maize from a field.

“The deceased was severely beaten and taken to Village Head Demakudi while unconscious,” said the police spokesperson for Nkhata Bay Kondwani James.

The chief alerted police who rushed the man to the hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cases of mob justice have been alarmingly on the rise.

Concerned, the Ministry of Justice authored a statement which minister responsible Bright Msaka read out in Parliament.

“My Ministry is seriously concerned with the rising incidents of mob justice being perpetrated by some members of the public across the country.No one has the right to take the law into in his or her own hands under the guise of mob justice.

"When perpetrating mob justice, important tenets of the law such as “a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty” are disregarded. People taking part in mob justice play the role of a complainant, the Police, the prosecutor and the judge. Victims of mob justice never have a chance to defend themselves,” he argued.

He went on give examples of how some have been innocently killed for crimes they did not commit.

Msaka, SC argued further that the are legal channels that need to be followed until one is found guilty.

“When a person feels that a crime has been committed they are expected to report the matter to the Police: the Police have a duty to investigate the matter… the Judiciary is duty-bound to hear and determine the matter in a fair and impartial manner, and where the person is found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment,” he said.

But in response, the MPs said there was need to restore public trust in the police as many feel criminals reported to the cops, are quickly released on bail.

"Is this a sign or a message that people are trying to  communicate that something is not right somewhere?...Why have people lost trust in the police," asked MP for Nkhata Bay South East Noah Chimpeni.

To this, Msaka, responded that there was need to for more civic education to enlighten the public that bail is a right as denial may be tantamount to subjecting the suspect to detention without trial. 

The MPs also complained about lack of or the presence of dilapidated court structures that are in most cases understaffed that make it difficult for people to access justice.

But in all, they agreed something needed to be done to end the vice.