Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa has admitted that the police do not command the respect and trust of some quarters of the public; hence, they are devising ways to regain the lost confidence.
He made the confession during a meeting with members of Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in Lilongwe where he was asked to give the police’s side of reports about alleged sexual and physical abuse of women and men at Mpingu, Msundwe and M’bwatalika trading centres in Lilongwe earlier this month.
Mwapasa, among others, said the head teacher at Mpingu Secondary School refused to allow police officers interview the alleged police rape victims during the Msundwe saga.
He said: “It is indeed true that some quarters of the society have lost trust in the police. We are just victims of political propaganda, but we are working to win back the trust.
“This is why up to now the police haven’t interviewed the alleged rape victims because when our officers went, the headmaster there refused to give us the girls to interview.”
Mwapasa said as plan B, they have asked Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to help them interview the girls who were allegedly raped at Mpingu Secondary School.
Members of the caucus wanted to know from Mwapasa what sort of orders allow police to terrorise and victimise people when effecting arrests.
Stand-in chairperson of the caucus Jean Sendeza, who is legislator for Lilongwe South West that covers Mpingu and M’bwatalika, wondered why rape was used to punish innocent people in Mpingu when demonstrations happened at Msundwe Trading Centre.
Another legislator, Khumbize Kandodo of Kasungu South East, advised Mwapasa to put his house in order if police is to regain lost public trust.
But the acting IG said the police did not terrorise the area. He said they used reasonable force because people were not demonstrating but rioting.
Before meeting the police, the caucus met officials from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Gender Coordination Network (GCN).
NGO-GCN chairperson Barbara Banda said it is sad that the police used rape and that the victims were only taken to hospital after 10 days.
“You know when one has been raped they need to go to hospital within some hours but here they took more than 10 days. However, from the five girls we took to the hospital one was confirmed raped,” she said.
Banda said her organisation is undertaking an independent investigation whose results will come out soon.
Two weeks ago, police officers allegedly raided M’bwatalika, Mpingu and Msundwe trading centres along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road where they sexually harassed women and physically assaulted men purportedly to avenge the stoning to death of their colleague in a fracas.
On Wednesday last week, British High Commissioner Holly Tett bemoaned the loss of public trust in the police service, saying it compromises service delivery.
The diplomat asked the police to work on restoring its public trust.
There were running battles between police and communities in Msundwe over what started as a protest against Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government plan of holding a rally at Kamuzu Institute for Sports which ended with protesters killing a Police Mobile Service (PMS) Superintendent Usumani Imedi.
About 43 people from Msundwe, Mb’watalika and Mpingu were arrested and taken to court, four have been charged with murder, while 39 have been granted bail.
NGO-GCN expressed its worry over the alleged cases of human rights abuse by the police, especially to women and girls.