In July 2018, a teenager—who for purposes of this story we shall call Joy because she is minor—was defiled by a businessperson almost thrice her age.
The suspected defiler came in contact with the 15-year-old girl through her in-law.
The poor girl recalls being slapped three times by her 41-year-old defiler, when she resisted his advances.
“He locked me in a room and forced me to have sex with me. I refused vehemently, but he overpowered me,” Joy narrates her ordeal.
Police arrested the defiler after tests at Phalombe District Hospital proved that Joy had been defiled and contracted some sexually transmitted infections in the process.
But the matter has stalled from the time the suspect was released on court bail on August 16 2018, having paid a bail bond of K85 500.
Joy soon dropped out of school, fleeing mockery from her friends. as if she chose to sleep with the old man.
“I can’t go back to school unless I move out of Phalombe district,” she said while fighting tears.
On October 24 2019, the State applied to withdraw the case, alleging that Joy could no longer be traced.
Court records indicate that a prosecutor told First Grade Magistrate Damson Banda that it would be difficult for the State to continue with the case because the victim was nowhere to be seen.
A blame-game ensued when Youth Net and Counselling (Yoneco) inquired about the case. While the court said it was the police delaying it, the police said the court had remained quiet on the matter.
Banda says the State has power to bring back the case to court and parade its witnesses.
“The State hasn’t brought the suspect for close to two years now,” he says. “We are not an interested party we only handle what the State brings to us,” he added.
But Phalombe Police Station spokesperson Innocent Moses attributed the stalling of the case to the fact that police have no say since the suspect was granted bail by the court.
Moses said the way forward is for the court to either revoke the bail or issue a re-arrest order.
When asked about Joy’s two-year wait for justice, Banda said the prosecutor informed him that the case had been transferred to Southern Region Police Headquarters, a claim disputed by regional prosecuting officer Senior Superintendent Jackson Sanudi.
He said the only case Phalombe Police Station has committed to the regional office involves a fellow police officer, from Migowi Police Unit, who is suspected to have defiled two minors in a police cell.
“There is no way a defilement case which involves a non-public figure can be committed to the regional office. Those are handled at station level,” said Sanudi.
Inquiries into Joy’s quest for justice have revealed that Joy’s parents were allegedly approached with K50 000 to convince her to change her statement when the case resumes.
“From the money, my mother gave me K4 000. She also bought me a mat and a blanket,” laments Joy, blaming her parents for selling her innocence.
Joy’s mother confirmed being approached to withdraw the case.
“Considering what my daughter has suffered, though I received the money, I refused to withdraw the case,” she says.
Yoneco executive director MacBain Mkandawire, whose organisation fights for the women’s and children’s rights says the blame-game in the case could be a manifestation of corruption.