To some, he is the defender. To others, he is the enemy. But to communities in Traditional Authority (T/A) Maseya in Chikwawa, Stanley Mangochi is their hero as he voluntarily offers security in the area.
At 49, Mangochi still cuts out his usual image, that of a tough, stern father figure who will not allow his children to “set the house on fire”. The man is not only a father of four residing in Biyason Village, he is also the second-in-charge for Maseya Community Policing Forum (CPF).
His burly figure strikes fear in cattle rustlers. His handcuff, a weapon which he treasures the most, is a legend on its own.
Mangochi, a former member of the disbanded Malawi Young Pioneers back in the 1980s in Neno, his district of origin, is a well-travelled man. This feat took him down to Chikwawa where he settled and married in 1996.
In the following years, due to his matchless ambition in security matters, he was entrusted to lead the village’s policing panel. In 2000, he rose through the ranks and found himself in the higher hierarchy of Maseya CPF, a policing bloc at senior chief level.
This feat delighted Mangochi.
However, his first job was part dramatic, part incredible. A goat went missing in the village and a search was launched.
“We found the goat already slaughtered, but heaped on top of a newborn baby,” Mangochi says. “A woman, my neighbour, who had just given birth, is the one who stole the goat. She admitted but was quickly forgiven.”
Since then, the self-styled CPF leader has made several arrests targeting livestock thieves.
Rustlers, he said bitterly, will never forgive him. Catching them is more like a game to him, one that he plays too well. He regrets nothing.
“It’s part of my calling. I don’t feel good when I see a poor villager crying over his stolen goat or cow,” says Mangochi.
His pride lies in the fact that, almost two decades volunteering his security services, he has netted almost 50 cattle thieves, and hundreds of goat rustlers.
Boasts Mangochi: “It is a milestone of sort. It is a legacy which I will leave in Chikwawa.”
Unsurprisingly, he has a string of enemies within and outside. It is not only cattle rustlers who wish him dead. Unscrupulous traders at Bereu Market in the district also dislike him because he takes them head-on, especially when they dupe unsuspecting clients.
“Every Sunday, a market day, I go around the market, singlehandedly confronting any dishonest vendor who may force a client to buy an item at an exorbitant price. Some vendors, I tell you, take advantage of the locals. So, I stop all this,” states Mangochi.
But is it his job?
Mark Munama, former coordinator of community policing in Chikwawa, says it is his job.
“So long he protects the community from dishonest vendors, he is spot-on. Mangochi is there to fight crime at community level. Tricking buyers is a crime and when he wages war against it, within the armpit of the law, then it is okay,” he says.
Mangochi’s untiring efforts in volunteering security are also commended by former Chikwawa Police Station officer-in charge Davie Chingwalu, now at Thyolo Police Station.
To him, Mangochi is “a proactive community member who deserves to be motivated by our efforts as men like him are unsung heroes of our time. Imagine, he uses his own resources to transport suspects from Maseya to the police station.”
Spending his personal resources to hire a motorcycle to ferry suspects is not uncommon to the volunteer ‘cop’ who has no bicycle.
Mangochi explains: “I wish I could have a bicycle that could see me peddling any suspect to the station. If you want to ask me how I can do it, it is not a problem.
“I can strap the suspect to myself and cycle to the station. I was doing it in the past before the bicycle, which was donated to me broke down.”
Here lies a setback. The station that Mangochi is serving cannot afford a bicycle at the meantime. Funding hiccups are a stumbling block.
“However, any donation is welcome,” says Munama who is now community policing coordinator in Chiradzulu.
To him, it is the Malawi Police Service’s wish to keep community policing structures running. “They are key to community peace, law and order,” adds Munama.