A family of a prisoner who escaped Mikuyu Prison in Zomba this week before he was captured by guards claimed that their relative was beaten to death by prison guards who went on to attempt to conceal his death.
The family said only intervention of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) forced Malawi Prison Service (MPS) to reveal the death of the inmate who was serving a 76-month jail term for rape, according to family members.
MHRC executive secretary Grace Malera confirmed in an interview that the constitutional body was investigating the cause of death of Maxwell Kamwendo, from Mpina Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mponda, Mangochi district, following a complaint from the family.
“We were alerted by an NGO in the district that it appears the victim was beaten to death and we also received a complaint from the family. We immediately dispatched our officers who worked hand-in-hand with pathologist Charles Dzamalala for a postmortem. Our officers are on the ground trying to get facts of the incident,” said Malera.
Chief Commissioner of Prisons Little Mtengano yesterday refused to respond to any question on Kamwendo’s death, saying the matter was still under investigations.
“As you have learnt there is an investigation into the matter and we would not be saying anything on this issue. Ask the Human Rights Commission on what the findings are so far, but we cannot say anything about the cause of the death,” said Mtengano while refusing to take further questions.
According to Alfred Bwanali Chati, an uncle to the deceased person, the family is in no doubt the death was an extrajudicial killing.
Narrating the ordeal in a telephone interview during burial of the late Kamwendo, Chati said the family’s suspicion was raised when the uncle and a few family friends visited Zomba Prison where the deceased was incarcerated, only to be told he had been transferred to Mikuyu Prison.
“When we reached Mikuyu, we were told that Emmanuel had been transferred to Zomba Prison, which came as a surprise considering that we were just coming from the same place. We notified the warders that we had been referred to Mikuyu by Zomba Prison, so the warders left us alone for over an hour and a half while they deliberated upon themselves.
“Later, one warder came to us and said he had information that Emmanuel was sick; hence, admitted to hospital [Zomba Central Hospital]. We were advised to go to the hospital, but we asked whether we could be given a letter from the prison to allow us visit him. They refused and just advised us to search for him in the hospital wards. When we got to Ward 11, where inmates are accommodated, that was where we got indications that he had killed by some wardens and fellow inmates. We learnt his body was in the mortuary,” said Chati.
According to Chati, the family learnt from mortuary attendants that the body had been brought by prison authorities, a claim neither Mikuyu nor Zomba Prison is owning up to. n