Mob rule in Malawi

Famine has led to a dramatic i8ncrease in mob attacks in some areas of Malawi, where those suspected of stealing crops are hacked to pieces with pangas.

The panga, a long machete, is a fearsome instrument, about half a metre long with a sturdy hilt and a long, sharp, heavy blade, is used to chop back vegetable growth – or as a weapon, inflicting horrendous injuries on its victim.

Dr. Steven Mannion, a British surgeon working in Malawi, has claimed that there has been an increase in panga attacks recently, which goes hand-in-hand with the current food crisis in the country. “The people we were seeing were not normally thieves or robbers. They were from a totally different section of the population. They were invariably dressed in rags and had been driven to stealing maize from their neighbours’ fields in a desperate bid to feed their starving families”.

The prolonged and dramatic famine has caused the social fabric in some areas of Malawi to break down, in a scenario of widespread hunger and malnutrition which has not been seen for decades.

In April, the United Nations World Food Programme appealed to the international community to donate 485 million USD, only a fraction of which has arrived, while the population under real threat of starvation has risen to some three million.

“People who are caught stealing maize are frequently subjected to mob justice, which typically takes the form of multiple, severe lacerations, inflicted with panga knives,” explained Dr. Mannion, who added that the extreme delays before hospital treatment is received are translated into grossly infected wounds and in the more severe cases, amputation.


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