The family of a police officer who went missing eight years ago is struggling to come to terms with the absence of their relation. ISAAC SALIMA writes.
Eight years after Clement Sinoya went missing, his 22-year-old son, Obed, is refusing to accept the former police officer will never return.
No one has told him what happened to the cop who was stationed at Mikolongwe Police in Thyolo District.
Obed recalls that it was a Wednesday, February 13, 2013, when his father disappeared without a trace—just like that.
“He said he was going to the bank but some people said they saw him loitering around Goliati Trading Centre where he reportedly looked mentally disturbed,” the son, who is the first born in the family of three, says.
No more information came to Sinoya’s family.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. To this day, the police officer still cannot be traced.
“We launched our own search around the trading centre. We combed through several surrounding areas with the support of Mikolongwe and Thyolo police but our efforts failed to yield anything,” Obed says.
He further claims officers from Mikolongwe Police Station were not helpful enough and the matter was taken to Malawi Police Service (MPS) headquarters from where, eight years later, nothing tangible has also come out.
It is not clear whether Sinoya can be declared dead in the absence of direct proof such as the finding of remains attributable to him.
However, it is internationally recognised that a person who has been missing for an extended period with no evidence that the person is still alive may be declared dead.
Sinoya’s family are finding it difficult to imagine he might be dead much as they are seeking closure in the matter.
“At the police headquarters, we were told to wait for seven years before they could declare our father dead. When we went again last year, we were told the issue is being processed and that we would be informed about the outcome before the end of the year,” Obed explains.
Without the death declaration, the family cannot access Sinoya’s benefits.
His wife Liziness Chitindo has also been traumatised all these years.
She corroborates her son’s sentiments that MPS informed them that the matter is being handled by “senior officers”.
“We are tired of waiting. We cannot afford to be travelling to Lilongwe now and then. We don’t have the money for transport,” Chitindo, who, together with the children moved to Kasungu where they are staying, says.
Memories of the time she shared with her husband, whose whereabouts not even a rumour has ever suggested, are still fresh.
Chitindo is frustrated that the police cannot get to the bottom of the matter and inform the family what really happened to Sinoya.
Obed now stays with his two siblings in Kasungu while the mother is putting up in another area in the district.
He says the absence of their father has left the family destitute.
“The time my father went missing, I was in Form One. I was forced to drop out of school because my mother could not manage to pay my school fees.
“The future of my siblings is also murky as they have no one to support them. We wish we got concrete information from the police because he was one of them. They stopped giving out his monthly salary few months after he had gone missing,” Obed says.
His family’s last appeal is for MPS to tell them whether the missing cop is dead or alive and what happened to him if he is dead.
Sinoya’s uncle, Kelvin Kadongolo, who has also been following up the matter, plans to contact the police headquarters again.
“MPS promised that they were arranging his gratuities and sorting out his estate. We are still waiting for that even though it is taking forever,” Kadongolo says.
Patrick Mussa, spokesperson of Limbe Police Station, in whose jurisdiction Mikolongwe Police Station falls, said he was not aware of the issue while MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera asked for more time before commenting on the matter.
On his part, coordinator of Kasungu Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Hastings Kalima, who has been assisting in pursuing the matter, said they are waiting for a representative of the family to find money for travelling to Area 30 to get an update on the matter.
On the other hand, CCJP National Coordinator Boniface Chibwana said the conduct of MPS in the matter demonstrates the usual practice of the police failing to provide concrete answers on critical issues of justice and public security.
“In this particular case, there was need for MPS to furnish the family with information on the status of investigations into the whereabouts of their relation.
“In fact, the police somehow display elements of carelessness in the whereabouts of a law enforcement officer; the matter is of huge importance in terms of public security,” Chibwana said.
He wishes there was an effective enquiry or investigation into the matter, leading to a credible and meaningful conclusion “based on attendant provisions in the law regarding a missing person…”
Chibwana has since advised Sinoya’s family to seek redress from the Malawi Human Rights Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman if it is dissatisfied with the assistance from the police.