Eight people have been arrested for arson, assault and proposing violence in Lusaka’s Chipata Overspill area for burning Bethel Church of Zambia on suspicion that there was a mermaid inside.

According to a statement issued by police spokesperson Esther Katongo, Monday, the incident incident occurred on January 12, 2020 between 19:00 and 23:00 hours when a witch doctor incited a mob after being denied access to perform rituals in the said church.

She narrated that a church elder of the said church had a sick son and his mother-in-law sought help from a witch doctor but the traditional healer insisted that the son could only be cured if he was allowed to go in the church.

“It was reported that the elder at the church who is aged 52 who resides at the same church has a sick son aged 30 who has been sick for some time. It is alleged that the mother-in-law of the Church elder’s son who is sick went with a witch doctor at the house of the Elder who is the father of the patient. Whilst there, the Witch doctor alleged that there was a Mermaid (ilomba) in the Church and that for him to cure the patient, he needed to go inside the Church to perform some rituals. The Church elder refused to allow him and this infuriated the mother-in-law to the patient and the witch doctor who allegedly incited a mob that had gathered. The mob stoned and set the Church ablaze and also razed down the wall fence to the church,” read the statement.

“Those arrested are Beatrice Manda aged 47 of Chipata over spill who is the mother-in-law of the patient, Steve Mwanza aged 29 of Chazanga who is the witch doctor involved, Jered Banda aged 25 of Chipata Compound, Michael Mwanza aged 35 of have Chipata Overspill, Steve Kalusa aged 35 of Chazanga Compound, Felix Kasonde aged 27 have of Chipata Compound, James Bwalya aged 20 of Chipata Compound and Caleb Ndalemeke aged 45 of Chipata overspill. They are all detained in police custody.”

And Katongo stated that a police officer was stoned during the fracas.

“Police rushed to the area and managed to contain the situation. However, one police officer was stoned and he sustained a cut on the left cheek. The Church building had its doors and windows damaged while the plastic chairs and some benches were burnt, and some were stolen,” stated Katongo.