The government of Malawi is putting in measures to curb the recent lynching of people accused of being vampires by taking action against perpetrators, as well as, those accused of spreading false information, VOA reports. Officials are also reiterating to the public that vampires don’t exist.
Five people were lynched by a mob in three different locations in the East African country last month. Nine people also met their fate under similar circumstances in 2017.
Workers from the National Statistical Office who were conducting an official survey in the northern part of Nkhata-Bay were almost lynched but for the intervention of police officers who managed to disperse the mob, local media reported Tuesday, according to VOA. The workers were accused of being vampires by locals when they found out they were collecting blood samples of participants.
Three medical workers who were in possession of medical equipment used to collect blood samples were also attacked in Mchinji on Monday, and two people in Kasungu were killed on Saturday after they were accused of hiding suspected vampires. Three people were also killed in Dowa and Mzimba last month.
The rumors of vampires attacking people and sucking their blood began circulating in February, subsequently escalating to some districts in the central and northern parts of the country. Scared residents who believe the rumors, claim the so-called vampires attack unsuspecting victims at night with magic and sophisticated technology to render them defenseless before drawing their blood.
This has caused worried and scared residents to sleep outside in groups.
“We fear we can have our blood sucked if we sleep alone in our houses. We are even failing to go to our gardens for fear of being attacked by vampires there,” a resident told VOA.
The rumor, which is believed to have originated from Zambia, has caused residents in some areas to set up vigilante groups to patrol roads and search vehicles.
Speaking to VOA, Malawi police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, said the stories of vampire attacks are fabricated. He also affirmed perpetrators behind the attacks are being rounded up.
“As I am talking to you, 37 people have been arrested and they will answer for murder, others for assaults and others of malicious damage,” he said.
There were similar incidents of vigilante attacks on people accused of being vampires in southern Malawi in 2017, resulting in nine casualties. As part of measures to put a stop to it, President Peter Mutharika visited the volatile areas and instructed police to arrest anyone caught spreading rumors.
A government spokesman, however, told VOA the president won’t be involved this time around.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to take the head of state to visit the areas for people to know that this is not right. So, we don’t have such programs at the moment. As you know, the head of state is also restricting himself from moving around because of the situation we have now, the coronavirus,” he said.
The spokesman said the government would rather focus on sensitizing people against false information.