President Peter Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale on Wednesday evening shot a woman at Chimwankhunda Township in Blantyre as he was allegedly chasing people suspected to have been unarmed robbers.
In an interview yesterday at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) where she was admitted to, the 35 year-old Sigele Kaipa said it was around 6.35pm when a stray bullet hit her.
She said she was walking towards the bus stop in Nkolokosa, about 200 metres away from where the alleged incident occurred along the Chimwankhunda-Living Waters Church road after dropping bags belonging to her husband with whom she said they recently separated.
Kaipa said since it was already dark, she was going to sleep at a friend’s place before proceeding on her journey to Mpulula Village, Traditional Authority Nkalo in Chiradzulu district when she met her fate.
From her hospital bed, she said: “There were three cars coming from the Living Waters Church direction and all of a sudden, I felt a sharp pain on my right thigh before falling onto the ground. I then saw a lot of blood before people came to the scene. That is when I realised that a bullet had hit me.”
Kaipa said the well-wishers stopped one of the passing vehicles that took her to Soche Police from where a police vehicle ferried her to QECH.
She said doctors’ assessment established that the bullet did not hit her thigh bone; hence, her mobility will not be affected.
During a visit to the scene of the incident yesterday morning, one of the eyewitnesses, Mary Laudon—who sells boiled cassava a short distance away—said she heard two shots being fired from one of the vehicles.
“There were three cars so we could not figure out from which car the shots came, but Mr. Chisale’s car was behind the other two. After a while, we saw the woman on the ground and that is when we rushed to see what had happened, only to discover she had been shot,” she said.
Kaipa’s estranged husband, John, whom we found at his house in Chimwankhunda in the morning, corroborated the narration by the two women.
When contacted around 1pm yesterday, Chisale, whose official designation is director of security at State Residences, asked to be called after five minutes. However, thereafter his line was either giving a busy tone or the calls went unanswered.
But Kaipa said Chisale visited her minutes after her arrival at the hospital and explained that he had shot her accidentally during a chase of robbers that had allegedly raided his house in Chimwankhunda Dam area.
She said Chisale promised to take care of any expenses arising from her ordeal.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Southern Region Police Headquarters spokesperson Ramsey Mushani said three people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
But the police’s version is different from the narration of both Kaipa and Laudon.
Said Mushani: “The three were trying to attack him [Chisale]. They came close to his car window and that is when he started to wrestle with them, overpowering one in the process while the other two were apprehended with the help of community members.”
Put to him that his statement contradicted what Kaipa and Laudon said, the police spokesperson said there was a possibility that after the capture of their colleague, the other two were fleeing the scene.
But human rights defenders have asked the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to independently investigate the incident.
In a written response, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said justice should prevail on the matter.
Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka said in the absence of a credible police report, it is difficult to arrive at a reasonable conclusion on the matter.
He said: “Considering the manipulative nature of our police and the personality involved, a very powerful presidential guard, we are unlikely to get an impartial and objective investigation.”
MHRC chairperson the Reverend Patrick Semphere said it is difficult to state their position on the matter in the absence of any information or rather approach from the human rights defenders.
The incident comes weeks after video clips went viral on social media showing disgruntled Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) operatives threatening to have Chisale fired for purportedly blocking their efforts to meet the President.