By Feston Malekezo
At the height of increased cases of rape and defilement in the country, Homeland Security Minister Richard ChimwendoBanda is on record to have said suspected defilers or rapists should be dealt with right in the communities before they are taken to police.
The video, awash on social media platforms, is believed to have been taken in Mangochi West Constituency, where Chimwendo-Banda, who is also Dowa East legislator— was campaigning for Simeon Harrison on Sunday ahead of the December 15 by-election.
This has created heated debate. In the video clip, which runs for about three minutes— having been posted by the minister on his Facebook page—Chimwendo-Banda says it is high time rapists or defilers were slapped with stiffer penalties.
Chimwendo-Banda said cases of rape and defilement had reached disgusting levels, suggesting, therefore, that those who defile should be beaten up in their respective communities before being reported to police. However, while confirming making the statement in an interview yesterday, Chimwendo-Banda said he did not mention anything promoting mob justice as others are purporting.
“On 29th November 2020, I continued to join many wellmeaning Malawians that are standing up against rape and all forms of sexual violence against women and children. At all material times, I intended to and did communicate the following message: “Rape and all forms of sexual violence against women and children must be treated as heinous crimes they are; Malawians at all levels of our society must act with vigilance in apprehending and handing over to law enforcement agencies all perpetrators of this deplorable criminal conduct. “The culture of shielding or excusing these barbaric actions must come to an end; community policing structures and local leaders must take a lead in this fight. I did not intend to and do not in any way condone or support mob justice or unlawful handling of suspects of sexual offences. Any interpretation or suggestion to that effect is regretted.”
Gender activist Barbra Banda said people have to look at the context in which the minister made the said statement.
“There are answers that people are expecting but are not coming out. Therefore we have to deduce what is being said in an emotional way from something we can say is the rule of law. Therefore context is very important,” she said.
However, People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director Edward Chaka faulted Chimwendo-Banda.
“A suspect remains innocent until proven guilty by a competent court of law. It is a criminal offence for the Homeland Security Minister to be promoting mob justice. We expect his ministry to preach peace,” Chaka said.
Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance, in a statement executive director Victor Mhango issued yesterday, says, while they were appalled by the rising cases of sexual violence, no one should be allowed to be prosecutor and judge at the same time.