Five police officers have been arrested in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre in connection with the death of two people in Blantyre’s Ndirande Township during the July 20 2011 anti-government demonstrations.
A high-powered team from the National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe travelled to Blantyre on Sunday and arrested the officers at Ndirande Police Sub-station.
The five arrested police officers face charges of murder of two persons during the anti-government demonstrations against the administration of the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
The arrested police officers, from the day of the arrest and as of yesterday, were being kept at the same Ndirande Police Sub-station, according to their lawyer Lusungu Gondwe.
During the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2011, 20 citizens were killed when police, nationwide, confronted the unarmed demonstrators using excessive force and opened fire at the protesters when they took to the streets to protest against shortages of fuel, foreign exchange and poor governance.
A commission of inquiry appointed by Mutharika, but whose results came out in July 2012 under the administration of President Joyce Banda who ascended to power following Mutharika’s death on April 5 last year, faulted the police for the deaths and called for investigation and prosecution of those involved.
Gondwe identified the arrested officers as Paul Mussa, Kelvin Nyirenda, Benedicto Dzombe, Mahomed Kulusinje and Lemekezo Mikuti.
He said the police took caution statements from the officers in October last year, but made the arrests around 6 am last Sunday.
Said the lawyer: “Police were not doing anything on the matter after the arrests and that forced my clients to advise me to apply for a date at the High Court in Blantyre for bail application. The court has set May 10 for hearing of the bail application.”
When The Nation wanted to find out when the suspects were likely to be taken to court and if more arrests should be expected, Blantyre Police Station referred the issue to National Police Headquarters.
However, deputy police national spokesperson Kelvin Maigwa referred our reporter back to Blantyre Police Station, saying he had no details.
Sources said more arrests of police officers are expected in Lilongwe and Mzuzu where deaths also occurred during the nationwide demonstrations.
The report by the commission of inquiry established that the number of police officers in the country was below the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) recommended ratio of one to 500 and that the police lacked sufficient non-lethal weapons.
The commission also found that in certain cases, the police demonstrated lack of crowd management skills along designated marching routes.
On the local and international scenes, the shootings and killings displayed lack of tolerance and respect for human rights (to demonstrate), as is enshrined in the Constitution, by the DPP-led government, currently seeking to be voted back in power in 2014.