The Malawi Police Service (MPS) seems to have used powers it does not have to grant bail to a Burundian suspect who was already serving a court bail for attempting to kill a businessperson in Salima.
The suspect, 33-year-old Emmanuel Sekanao, was arrested in July 2017 for allegedly shooting fellow Burundian, Vincent Niyongira, a businessperson based in Salima.
He was charged, alongside his seven accomplices—two Rwandese nationals and five Malawians—with attempted murder contrary to Section 223 of the Penal Code.
However, the charge was later amended to an act intended to cause grievous harm which is contrary to Section 235 of the Penal Code.
According to documents, Sekanao was released on bail on November 1 2017 after a 30-day detention by judge Chifundo Kachale of the High Court after he paid K100 000 cash bond, two sureties—each paying K50 000 cash—and surrendering his travel documents.
However, Sekanao was re-arrested on October 4 this year after he attempted to shoot Niyongera again along the Lilongwe-Salima Road.
The Burundian was this time charged with conspiring to commit a felony but police in Lilongwe, with full knowledge of the first crime and bail, released him seven days later, a development that has raised eyebrows.
While the police have defended their decision to grant the suspect another bail, legal minds have expressed dismay, arguing the bail was supposed to be revoked and the man committed to prison.
In an interview, Central Region Police spokesperson Norriet aChihana-Chimala said there was no hindrance for the law enforcement agency to grant Sekanao another bail because he committed different offences.
She said: “There was nothing wrong. The two cases are different as such it is possible for the police to grant bail to a suspect who is already on another bail granted by the court for a different crime.”
The first offence is an act intended to cause grievous harm while the second crime is conspiracy to commit a felony contrary to Section 404 of the Penal Code. Both offences resulted from attempts to kill the Burundian businessperson.
But commenting on the matter, Malawi Law Society (MLS) faulted the police for granting bail without considering the guiding principles under the Bail Guidelines Act.
MLS president Alfred Majamanda said before granting Sekanao bail, police needed to, among others, consider the likelihood of the accused committing another offense while on bail and also interfering with witnesses or tampering with evidence or obstructing the course of justice.
“The police also have to consider the seriousness of the offence and the character, antecedents of the accused, among other things.
“Looking at the issue at hand there are facts which militate against the police granting the police bail. The fact that he committed the alleged offence while on bail should have prevented the police from granting bail. The character of the suspect as well given the previous incident can come into play,” explained Majamanda.
However, the MLS president said he could not comment much on the matter as “we are not sure what the prosecuting authority is intending to do… suffice to mention that it is important for the police to follow the Bail Guidelines Act when considering whether or not to grant police bail.”
In May 2018, Weekend Nation quoted Niyongira as saying he was first shot at on July 10 2017 inside his compound while returning from his shop around 6pm.
He claimed his security guard Moffat Paul who wrestled with the suspects who were then three in number identified the suspects when he was called to do so at the Salima Police Station following the arrests.