Brutality dominates police complaints
The newly constituted Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has received at least 99 complaints against law enforcers from civilians who believe some actions by the police officers were
The accusers want IPCC—headed by lawyer Christopher Tukula— to investigate possible unprofessional conduct by some police officers in line with the commission’s mandate spelt out in the Police Act of 2020.
National police spokesperson James Kadadzera said, however, he would only comment on the complaints against the law enforcers after relevant investigations have been concluded.
“These are complaints whose outcome you and me don’t know yet. When we know the outcome of the investigations, it will be the right time to say something on it,” Kadadzera said.
Section 129 of the Act mandates IPCC to receive and investigate complaints by the public against police officers and Malawi Police Service as an institution; to investigate death or injury as a result of police action and to investigate deaths or injuries which occur in police custody.
Tukula disclosed in an interview with The Sunday Times that the majority of the complaints his office has received so far border on police brutality.
“There are also complaints to do with police officers being involved in debt collection involving individuals. Some people have complained that police officers force them to sign documents committing that they will pay someone they owe money by a certain day. The officers, according to the complaints, even threaten to arrest the defaulters. Essentially, it is illegal for police officers to be involved in debt collection unless there is a crime where someone has stolen the money,” Tukula said.
He also disclosed that due to funding challenges, the commission is concentrating on investigating cases to do
with death in police custody, death as a result of police action and injury in police custody or as a result of police action.
Tukula, who admitted some police officers are resisting the establishment of IPCC, further said, in the meantime, attention is being paid to only 14 cases.
“We decided that we should start with the little that we have instead of waiting for the commission
to have all the required resources,” he said.
Last year, IPCC was given K350 million in the National Budget while this year, government has allocated K328 million for the complaints institution.
According to Tukula, the commission is in the process of recruiting nine investigators with four of them—to work on temporary agreement— specifically dedicated to the Msundwe case.
On what happens after investigations have been concluded, Tukula said IPCC will recommend appropriate sanctions where necessary.
Three lawyers to be recruited by the commission will be guiding it on the necessary actions after reviewing investigation reports.
“In some cases, there may be internal disciplining such as dismissal or demotion depending on the
nature of the case against the officers. We may also refer them to the Director of Public Prosecutions if we believe a crime was committed,” Tukula said.
According to Tukula, on its own motion, IPCC can institute an investigation against police officers.
He said the aim is to accredit certain police action, for instance, where an officer has shot dead a suspected
“We have to accredit the process if it was lawful use of force or a firearm or not,” the IPCC boss said.
The establishment of the commission was seen as crucial in enforcing professionalism among police officers due to a structured legal and independent system of handling cases dealing with the police.
There have been several cases of suspects dying in police custody with the most prominent one being that of Buleya Lule who was arrested in connection to the brutal murder of a person with albinism.
A Malawi Human Rights Commission investigation exonerated Lule, concluding that he might have been a victim of mistaken identity in the whole saga.
Last month, another suspect, Boniface Phika, died in police custody in Chikwawa. His family claimed he had been severely assaulted before he died.
The police dismissed the allegation.
Police Inspector General George Kainja has repeatedly said he will not shield any officer who
engages in acts of unprofessionalism.
And according to Tukula, the police chief is giving IPCC all the necessary support in its work.