The recent bouts of witchcraft accusations in Neno, Karonga and other places, combined with lynching and murder make for an ominous view of the immediate future.
As was shown in “Economic Gangsters” by Fisman and Miguel, witchcraft accusations are a coping mechanism in times of immediate poverty. Unproductive members of society, mostly the elderly and orphans, are accused of witchcraft and subsequently removed from the community by chasing or murdering them. This diminishes the burden on the community to care for unproductive people.
In South Africa witchcraft accusations against the elderly were very common up to the time there was a general government pension paid out to them. This changed them from an economic burden to an economic asset. Witchcraft accusations were a thing of the past, from one day to the next. This shows how witchcraft accusations are caused by extreme poverty, and can be prevented by relieving extreme poverty.
In Malawi we have a very difficult situation with immediate hunger, because of bad governance and aggravated by adverse weather conditions (floods and droughts). Our inadequate government is not capable of relieving the problems, donors can only do so much. As the hunger situation grows worse, the witchcraft accusations will worsen to, and our government is doing nothing, other than an empty call by the president, to improve the situation.
What we do not need is a President promoting calling on supernatural powers in the form of National Prayers for Rain, with the predictable result that assorted religious leaders start blaming the government policy on homosexuality for the drought.
We need implementation on the ground.
What we need is:
- Immediate relief food for those in trouble
- Economic policies that will lower inequality
- Government policies that will restore donor confidence, ie government keeping records of donor money (and our tax money too, please!)