By MILDRED KATONGO –
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has said the aged are the custodians of traditional and cultural values and should not be victims of killings on suspicions of practising witchcraft.
HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya said the HRC was concerned about the growing pattern of killing the elderly people and called for increased awareness and protection of their rights.
Mr Muleya said the elderly should not be killed as they were custodians of a rich, but unwritten traditional and cultural values and practices that should be passed on from one generation to another for social cohesion of communities.
He said the revelation by Muchinga Province deputy police Commissioner, Charles Mbita, that the province was recording an average of around 10 deaths of the aged people being killed on suspicion of practicing sorcery was disheartening.
Mr Muleya, however, called on the traditional leadership to ban the practice of witch-hunting in their chiefdoms as that could be contributing to the killing of older people who were mostly accused of being responsible for any unexplained illness or death.
“HRC is deeply concerned because the killing of older persons on suspicion of practicing witchcraft is becoming a pattern and widespread in a number of provinces in this country. This is regrettable. We call for celebration of older persons’ lives as a blessing to mankind,” he said.
Mr Muleya said old people have a right to life and from any form of discrimination under Articles 12 and 23 of the Zambian Constitution, which must be protected.
He said the practice of killing older persons was a crime of murder which must be addressed by various stakeholders.
“It is important for everyone to understand and appreciate the fact that getting old is a natural process. Everyone, with the gift of life, is destined for old age. The 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) findings indicate that life expectancy in Zambia was at about 62 years old,” he said.
He said there was need for specific legal and policy protection of older persons and that the protection mechanisms should move beyond social protection to include physical in order to minimise the escalating violation of their right to life.