In some police stations, it is normal for remanded suspects crammed in a holding cell to use a bucket for urine and defecation overnight and utilise it during the day for storing drinking water, it has been learnt.
This was revealed yesterday when the Centre for Legal Assistance (Cela) donated 40 buckets to be distributed in police cells in the Central Region to stop the horror the organisation had noted in the cells.
Cela donated the buckets at Lilongwe Police Station.
The buckets were clearly differentiated. Those to be used as water containers had taps at the bottom and those to be used as toilets were open-topped.
“We conduct lay visits in police cells and we discovered that suspects, especially at night, use the very same bucket as a toilet as well as storage for drinking water. This is not on and, as an organisation, we decided to make this donation to ease some of these problems,” Cela board chairperson Jessie Mlotha told journalists later.
Apart from buckets, Cela has also been donating disinfectants to minimise odour in the cells.
Central Region Police commissioner George Kainja said in an interview that there is too much congestion in cells because most of the holding rooms were built during the colonial era.
He said: “At Lilongwe Police Station, for instance, we sometimes keep 200 inmates in a cell that is supposed to cater for 100 or 150 people. With congestion comes the issue of sanitation and this is a big challenge to us and there is a need to modernise the cells, to offer suspects a very good service.”
Kainja commended Cela for donating the buckets which, he said, will improve sanitation in the police cells.
But Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo has called for an end to this degrading behaviour because “even dogs cannot be treated like this”.