Three of the eight Covid-19 positive immigrants who escaped from institutional quarantine at Kameza Isolation Centre in Blantyre on Monday allege that they bribed their way out of the centre.
Blantyre District director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira on Wednesday also acknowledged receiving reports of the alleged bribery.
He described the situation as deplorable.
Kawalazira said: “Actually, I have heard reports that even at the [Kamuzu] Stadium, some police officers were indeed receiving money and letting the people go.
“In some cases, we were even being shown videos of people giving the police bribes. But we have now beefed up security [at Kameza Isolation Centre] by engaging more security officers who will be rotating.”
A family member of one of the returnees from South Africa and was at Kameza Isolation Centre said a member of her family sent money to three of the returnees meant for their transport home upon arrival and that the three relations who paid K10 000 to security officers to get their freedom.
The family member said the relations had asked for money to get to their home village in Mchinga from Mwanza. However, upon arrival they learnt that the drop-off point was Kamuzu Stadium and that they had to wait for test results.
Our investigations also established that one of the escapees got to his home village in Machinga on Tuesday evening with full knowledge of his relations that he tested positive to Covid-19.
We managed to contact the escapee—through the number shared to us by his family member—and he told us that one of the people he escaped with had travelled from Zimbabwe and had already been found positive in the host country.
Said the escapee: “But at the border [Mwanza] he [the traveller from Zimbabawe] provided incorrect information for fear that authorities would perhaps know his status as he wanted to go home. But I don’t know where he has gone to.”
The escapee cut off the line. Further attempts to get him proved futile as he did not pick our calls.
A Chileka Police Station source also confided that the escape of the eight positive cases resulted from an apparent communication breakdown between Blantyre District Health Office (DHO) and Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma).
The police source said: “While the DHO dropped the eight people said to have fled at Kameza Isolation Centre, at around 10pm officials from Dodma visited the place and provided transport money to the people said to have escaped.
“The people hired a minibus at the [Kameza] roundabout and headed for Blantyre City.”
But our findings show that some Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers and security guards from private security firms were also part of the scheme and that they received either K10 000 or South Africa rand, ranging from R50 to R100 to release positive persons.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said he was yet to get official information on the matter; hence, said he would not comment promptly.
In a written response, health rights activist Maziko Matemba said it was unfortunate that law enforcers were allegedly in the forefront of perpetrating such inappropriate conduct that compromises efforts to contain Covid-19.
He said: “This is corruption, a serious crime by a public health officer on duty. It is our hope that this will be investigated so that it deter others from this bad practice.”
In recent weeks, some Malawians escaping from economic impact of Covid-19 have been leaving South Africa and Zimbabwe where they were stranded for some time.