Some police officers took advantage of the fracas that ensued in Lilongwe last week to sexually harass women and girls of Msundwe, Mpingu and M’bwatalika, The Daily Times can reveal.
Some women and girls told The Daily Times crew that visited the areas that some male police officers stripped them naked and fondled their private parts.
The victims said some of the officers wore masks so that they should not be identified.
The visibly and audibly traumatised victims, who were interviewed Wednesday, said the police also told them that they were doing so in retaliation after the death of one police officer Usumani Imedi who was killed during protests last week.
One of the victims, a Form Two student [name withheld], said three police officers broke into a house some female students are renting as self-boarders at Mpingu Community Day Secondary School, and ordered her and other girls to remove all their clothes including undergarments.
“Fortunately, two of us happened to be in our menses and we pleaded with the police officers to spare us. But one of us was forced to undress and they harassed her while we watched,” the victim said.
She said the officers dragged the victim to a separate room and, while in an attempt to defile her, she screamed a prayer which attracted the attention of another police officer who was outside the building.
According to the narrator, the police officer who was outside shouted: “Musiyeni ameneyo angatipatse matembelero [leave her, she might bring a curse upon us],” she said.
Another woman claimed police officers undressed her and sexually abused her.
“Anandivula mwankhanza ndi kuchita zawozo. Ine ndinangoti basi nanga n’kutani poti ifeyo tilibe mphamvu. [They forced me down and stripped me naked and did what they wanted]” she said.
Investigations by the NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO-GCN) also confirm that the police sexually abused women and girls at Msundwe, Mpingu and M’bwatalika.
Chairperson of NGO-GCN Barbara Banda expressed disappointment at the revelation of the conduct by Malawi Police Service officers and has since asked President Peter Mutharika to order an investigation and see to it that all the culprits are brought to book.
“According to our investigations, the police who descended on Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu did so not to investigate or professionally arrests suspects, but were on a vengeance mission for the killing of a fellow officer. Civilians, particularly women and children, were subjected to the most horrific and brutal treatment by people who are expected to uphold and enforce the law,” Banda said
She said the incidents at Msudwe and surrounding areas further erode trust and respect which the police service need to have from the public.
According to Banda, the Inspector General of Police should ensure that there are unimpeded investigations and that no one should be shielded.
National Police Service spokesperson James Kadzadera said the police are expected to investigate the issue.
“Yes we have seen video clips that have been circulating in the social media [about the incidents], and the statement from
The NGO-GCN Gender Network. As police we will, investigate the issue accordingly,” Kadzadzera said.
The network has also asked Malawi Human Rights Commission to conduct independent investigations into the allegations.
Police and residents of Msundwe and neighbouring areas clashed last week as the locals blocked the Lilongwe- Mchinji Road to stop Democratic Progressive Party supporters from attending a ceremony where Mutharika launched a US-Government funded project to construct 250 secondary school, and a subsequent rally scheduled in the afternoon of the day.
Meanwhile, the Magistrate Court in Lilongwe has granted bail to 12 people who were arrested in connection with the fracas on Tuesday.
Some of the bail conditions are that the suspects submit a cash bond of K20,000 each and one traceable surety of K100,000 non cash bond as well as to report to Lilongwe Police Station every fortnight on Friday.—Additional reporting by Faith Kadzanja