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Cops above the law?

Guns in wrong hands

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INCAPACITATED—Mike shows where
he was shot at

A spat over plots’ boundary between two families resulted in police officers shooting at a boy three times, but never got tried for their acts. THOMAS KACHERE writes:

For six years now, Mike Mwango—now 23—has lived with a man-made deformity which prevents him from doing simple works or sleeping with a woman.

His internal organs were destroyed by bullets fired from a police officer’s rifle.

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Mike got shot at in October 2015 when the officers, from Bangwe Police came to his house to intervene in a land boundary wrangle with his neighbour.

He claims the neighbour was stealthily taking a portion of the land that does not belong to him and that an argument ensued with Mike’s brother before the neighbour called the police.

“On the day, I heard that my brother was being assaulted by police officers who had come to quell the disagreement. I rushed to the scene, about 50 metres from our house.

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“I found my brother on the floor with two officers beating him heavily. I tried to come to his rescue and he escaped after finding an opportunity, leaving me in the hands of the angry cops,” Mike says.

He further states that he watched one police officer load bullets into a gun before passing it to the other who shot at him three times.

“The police officers dragged me in a pool of blood as if I were a thug and thrust me into a waiting police vehicle, then took me to Bangwe Police,” he explains.

He spent some time in police custody before some officers suggested that he should be taken to hospital to be treated for his wounds.

“I was dumped at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre without anyone to explain what had actually happened,” Mike adds.

At the referral facility, he says, nurses tried their best to assist him and his mother visited him the following morning since she had been away when the incident happened.

The mother, Eliza Stanford, says, being a widow, she had a lot of problems taking care of her wounded son, who has been searching for justice ever since.

“I want to know why the police had to come to our house and end up shooting at my son as if he was armed. Now, he can’t do activities such as tilling fields, carrying heavy items or walking long distances. He can’t even go to school,” Stanford says.

She adds that Mike sometimes spends long hours in bed and has to be carried to the hospital for drug injection.

“He needs items such as a mattress, good food and school fees for him to continue with his education after staying home for a long time,” Stanford says.

Patrick Mussa, who is Public Relations Officer for Limbe Police Station—under which Bangwe Police falls—refused to comment on the matter.

But a paralegal officer, who is following up the case, Apatsa Mangwana, says they managed to file everything concerning the matter including suing the State for compensation, through the Attorney General “but no date has been set for the case”.

“We wrote the Attorney General and we are still waiting for his response. We did everything on our part and now there is a court file; so, we are still waiting for when the case will be ready,” Mangwana says.

The only challenge is that the full details of the officer who shot at Mike are not clear.

Still, Mangwana hopes the court will make a determination on how the victim’s suffering should be remedied.

On his part, Human Rights Consultative Committee Chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba believes Mike’s case is among those that reflect Malawi’s failure to respect its own laws that promote human rights.

“It is painful that the young man has not accessed justice six years after the incident. It is only necessary that he should be compensated.

“If the shots were fired by the police, then the act was done by the State and it should take responsibility. Appropriate actions need to be undertaken, perhaps, including sending the victim abroad for further treatment,” Mkwezalamba says.

Apparently, the Office of the Ombudsman is aware of the matter but nothing tangible has come from there.

Mkwezalamba is of the view that the intervention of the Malawi Human Rights Commission would eventually put the matter to rest.

“The police should assist the Judiciary in fast-tracking the process and all relevant players should come together to ensure the young man gets justice,” he says.

In the meantime, Mike continues to live in agony and his family is struggling to take care of him.

Their biggest worry concerns what they have already seen elsewhere.

Some police officers alleged to have sexually assaulted girls and women in Lilongwe rural have not faced justice up to now.

Would Mike’s case be treated differently despite that the alleged perpetrators of the crime are men in uniform?

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