Zambia Magistrate Seeks Changes In Witchcraft Act To Allow Court Prosecution

A Zambian magistrate addressed his peers on Friday, asking that they consider adapting the guidelines currently in place in their Witchcraft Act in light of some strange incidents.

A man who lived in nearby Senaga, Mufalali Mufalali, died and was laid to rest about a year ago. However, he did not stay deceased, and wandered back to his home not long ago. Moreover, Mufalali did not mention his "death" or any kind of witchcraft, but instead told people that he was coming in from another Province after finishing up some work.

This feat created ample attention and concern. Magistrate Edsen Shanduba wants to make changes that allow prosecution of any person or people actively involved with witches or witchcraft so people feel safe again. He believes that witchcraft is a very real issue in Zambia and that it required immediate attention.

"Witchcraft is real and we cannot ignore it. Even the bible talks about witchcraft. It is my appeal that witchcraft Act should be amended," Mr. Shanduba said.
He took advantage of the opportunity to speak in front of the judiciary at the launch of Industrial Relations Court (IRC) registry to mention his concerns and have the matter resolved as quickly as possible. He felt that, since the judiciary's purpose was to make sure that justice was as efficient as possible, it was the ideal time to propose the changes to the Witchcraft Act.
"The people in authority should consider amending the Witchcraft Act. We have quite big problems when where matters of witchcraft are brought before the court. According to the witchcraft definition, it just talks bones and one wonders if these are bones of an impala or a donkey so that definition has given us a slight problem.

"[Since] issues of witchcraft [have] increased in the media and … become a matter of public interest … It is my appeal that the Witchcraft Act should be amended."

The IRC launched Friday to handle industrial and labor-related matters within the province, rather than people with complaints or lawsuits traveling into Lusaka for court. The IRC is now its own division within the High Court, thanks to amendments made within the Constitution. They will meet for the first session, or circuit, in April. Each circuit lasts for about two weeks. The last circuit is scheduled for this fall.

Ernest Mukulwamutiyo, the High Court Judge-in-Charge, sees the pros of this particular division of the High Court. He said that cases that were going through Lusaka could now close within a year and that ruling delivery times would shrink to about a two month waiting period once the court adjourned on the case.

The Witchcraft Act to which they refer is a set of guidelines to deliver proper justice for the offensive magic and offended parties. Below is a brief excerpt from the first few sections of their Witchcraft Act.

[9th May, 1914]

1. Short Title.

This Act may be cited as the Witchcraft Act.

2. In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

"act complained of" includes any death, injury, damage, disease or calamity, whether of an accidental or of a tortious character;

"boiling water test" means the dipping into boiling water of the limbs or any portion of the body of a person;

"property" includes animals;

"witchcraft" includes the throwing of bones, the use of charms and any other means, process or device adopted in the practice of witchcraft or sorcery.

3. Whoever-

(a) names or indicates or accuses or threatens to accuse any person as being a wizard or witch; or

(b) imputes to any person the use of non-natural means in causing any death, injury, damage or calamity; or

(c) asserts that any person has, by committing adultery, caused in some non-natural way death, injury, damage or calamity;

shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding seven hundred and fifty penalty units or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for any term not exceeding one year, or to both.

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