A court sitting in the northern Malawi’s city of Mzuzu has sentenced to life imprisonment 33-year-old Sam Kaumba for attempting to kill an albino.
With panga knives in his hands ready to slice his victim into pieces, the convict was caught red-handed in the bloody act.
High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise ordered that Kaumba be jailed for life on Wednesday for committing one of the worst crimes.
The ruling came at the end of a case in which Kaumba and Fiskani Mtambo were being prosecuted for coaxing 11-year-old Morton Juma, into a bush where they hacked him on the neck.
The murder of Juma was aborted when he shouted for help during the attack, and fortunately for him a mob appeared on the scene that apprehended the would-be murderers.
The court acquitted Mtambo because the state did not prove his involvement beyond reasonable doubt, but senior chief state advocate Dzikondianthu Malunda hailed the sentence meted out on Kaumba.
“With life imprisonment meted out to the convict, justice has certainly won,” Malunda told reporters outside the court.
The albino boy, who survived the attack, was all over the moon as Mzuzu Academy announced that it had offered him a scholarship. He dropped out of school for the fear of being abducted and killed.
As a matter of fact, the state cited the disruption of his education as one of the factors necessary for the judge to slap the convict with a stiffer punishment.
During the hearing, the prosecution said attempted murder was no different from cold-blood murder, as both were fuelled by the intention to kill and the victim did not survive by the mercy of his assailants but by chance and divine intervention.
But in mitigation, defence lawyer Chimwemwe Chithope described the convict as a first offender, youthful, sickly and deserving of mercy, saying the offence was “a mere attempt”.
He asked the court to treat the attempted murder of persons with albinism like any other, based on the principle of equality before the law.
The judge, however, quashed the call for a lesser sentence by declaring that worst offenders deserved worst punishment.
“Today I have that worst offender before me, who set out to kill Morton like a chicken or goat and he deserves stiff punishment,” he said.
The ruling comes a few days after Malawian President Peter Mutharika declared war against albino killers branding them as “terrorists”.
Making his address on International Albinism Awareness Day on Tuesday, Mutharika said albino killers would face the full might of the law.
According to Mutharika, at least 130 arrests had been made in connection with albino abductions and murders in Malawi.
“People elsewhere believe that we are superstitious and ignorant idiots and that is a huge embarrassment. We must end the albino killings,” he said, explaining that the killings were a source of shame.
Fueled by the wrong misconception and belief that albino body parts brought wealth and luck, attacks on albinos have increased in recent times, resulting in the deaths of at least 18 Malawians with albinism in the last two years.
A report by Amnesty International (AI) revealed that a surge in killings of people with albinism, whose body parts are used in rituals, was a result of systematic failure of policing in Malawi.
According to the report titled: “We are not animals to be hunted or sold: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism in Malawi,” the killings had left the vulnerable group living in fear.
“The unprecedented wave of brutal attacks against people with albinism has created a climate of terror for this vulnerable group and their families who are living in a state of constant fear for their lives,” said Amnesty’s Director for Southern Africa Deprose Muchena at a news conference in Malawi capital, at the launch of the report last week.