The day a clinician escaped jail
By Isaac Salima:
January 29 2022 was an ordinary day for Moses Chinula, a clinician at St Luke’s Hospital. He went for other personal errands as he prepared to go to work later in the day.
However, what promised to be a promising day had to end abruptly when officers from Criminal Investigations Department at Domas Police Post approached him and later told him that he was under arrest for allegedly defiling his two-year-old child.
“I could not understand them and, at first, I thought it was an issue of mistaken identity,” Chinula said.
After several court appearances, Chinula, an ex-Malawi Defence Force soldier, was on April 29 2022 acquitted of the charges due to lack of evidence by the state.
Chinula said he issue left him traumitised.
“I was really affected psychologically with what happened. The public eye was on me because wherever I went, people were pointing fingers at me. The matter also affected me professionally because nobody wanted to associate with me as a clinician,” he said.
At the peak of the case, Chinula was suspended at his workplace pending conclusion of the matter as, in the court of public opinion, he had already been found guilty.
The High Court sitting in Zomba noted, among other things, that the case had some flaws, making it impossible to prove that Chinula had committed the offence.
It noted, for instance, that the medical report on defilement was obtained at Domasi Rural Hospital, instead of St Luke’s Hospital, which was closer to her.
In addition, the court observed that the medical report authenticating the defilement had no official stamp from the hospital.
It also noted that there was no consent report from police ordering a medical report.
A maid at Chinula’s house, Ellen Samson, who had been taking care of the child in question, said she was left perplexed when she learnt about the issue.
“My job is non-residential; so, when I was leaving the previous day, all was well as I left the child playing normally,” Samson said.
Chinula is an example of many people who have been arrested by police and got acquitted after due process of the law.
In his ruling in the Chinula case, Chief Resident Magistrate Austin Banda warned police officers to be careful when making arrests.
He asked officers to be professional by conducting thorough investigations in such cases.
Zomba District Health Office spokesperson Anold M’ndalira said they have not acted on a hospital official who wrote a questionable medical report about the defilement.
“If there will be an official complaint on the misconduct of a clinician who issued that medical report, it is Medical Council of Malawi that will have to take an action,” M’ndalira said.
Executive Director at the Centre for Human Rights Education and Assistance Victor Mhango expressed concern that unprofessional conduct of some duty bearers has left many people in trouble.
“Many are cases like this one where evidence is fabricated. Unfortunately those accused do not have lawyers to represent them. This is a violation of human rights because someone ends up serving a sentence when they did not commit any crime,” Mhango said.
Eastern Region police spokesperson Joseph Sauka said he needed to find out if there has been further follow up on officers who handled the issue.
It is a concern that misconduct of some officials in the public service continues to negatively eat into the country’s meager resources as funds have been used to settle compensation claims.
Last year, the office of the Attorney General reported that compensation for claims against the government went up to K2 trillion.
In October last year, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said the claims were standing at around K800 billion.
He said, by October 2020, the government owed claimants about K150 billion in judgement debts spanning from as long ago as 1995.
People like Chinula who feel betrayed by public service delivery end up suing government and claim lots of money in compensation.