Driver in Mary Mount Secondary students’ accident convicted
By Deogratias Mmana:
The Mzuzu Magistrate Court has convicted and sentenced Duncan Ngwende, 44, the driver who was involved in a bus accident that led to the death of two students from Mary Mount Secondary School.
The court convicted Ngwende on six counts and sentenced him a cumulative fine of K1.4 million, or in default, to serve 48 months imprisonment with hard labour.
The details are contained in a report authored by Regional Police Prosecutor for the North, Moja Phiri, addressed to the Commissioner of Police for the North, Rhoda Manjolo.
Ngwende, who comes from Sapesa Village in Traditional Authority Bvumbwe in Thyolo District, was arrested on January 3, 2023 by Mzimba Police after the bus he was driving caused the death of Ruth Tembo and Thanthwe M’manjamwada and injured several others.
According to the report, Ngwende is ordered to pay K350,000 for each of the two counts of causing death by reckless driving.
He is also ordered to pay K150,000 on one count of contravening a road service permit, contrary to section 83 as read with section 167 of the Road Traffic Act of the Laws of Malawi.
The court has further ordered the driver to pay K200,000 for each of the three counts of causing injuries by reckless driving contrary to section 126 (1) as read with section 126 (4) (a) of the Road Traffic Act of the Laws of Malawi.
According to the report, the case with number 52 of 2023 was before Magistrate McKnight Makaka, investigated by Efrida Mbulaje and prosecuted by Betty Msowoya.
National police spokesperson Peter Kalaya confirmed the report.
He said the court has meted out fines to the driver. This, he said, is not compensation to the families.
“For compensation, the families will have to engage lawyers and the insurance companies. They will also have to get the police report,” Kalaya said.
The accident occurred on January 2, 2023 after Luviri Bridge in Mzimba. The bus was carrying 59 students coming from Lilongwe to Mzuzu.
In an interview Friday, Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Michael Kaiyatsa commended the court for the speedy trial of the case but expressed concern over what he called a lenient sentence.
“The sentence is lenient when you consider the fact that the accident involved loss of life.
“From the evidence presented in the court, there was negligence on the part of the driver. The sentence needs to be challenged otherwise it will send a wrong signal to reckless drivers,” Kaiyatsa said.
Kaiyatsa said while some may argue that the court acted within its mandate, there is a need to review the laws in the penal code so that such cases should attract stiffer penalties.
According to Northern Region Police spokesperson Maurice Chapola, three students sustained serious injuries while 25 others escaped with various degrees of injuries and were treated as outpatients at Mzimba District Hospital.
Chapola said the driver lost control of the bus due to speeding.