Trial of suspects in the 2011 murder case of a Polytechnic student, Robert Chasowa, has stalled because police officers are shielding each other, Weekend Nation can say.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Fahad Assani said in an exclusive interview this week that there are police officers involved in the matter and other officers assigned to investigate it have been unwilling to probe their colleagues.
But police say the file for the case was handed over to the Director of Public Prosecutions Bruno Kalemba.
Chasowa, who was a political activist and dealt with senior police officers including the former inspector general of police, Peter Mukhito, in trying to stop street demonstrations against former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, was in September 2011 brutally murdered.
He was found dead at the Polytechnic campus.
Mutharika’s government shot dead at least 20 protesters who took to the streets nationwide on July 20 2011 to protest against the former president’s poor governance and economic woes and according to Chasowa’s friend, Black Moses, Chasowa was dealing with the police to foil another round of demonstrations on August 17 the same year.
The Justice Minister alleged police officers have been failing to approach their colleagues who have information regarding the death of Chasowa who was a fourth-year mechanical engineering student at the college.
Assani said: “We have discovered police were not willing to investigate their colleagues. There are police officers who have information, but they have not been approached.
“I have discussed this with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) [Bruno Kalemba] and we have hatched an idea to break this. Unfortunately, I cannot discuss this idea here but be assured we will have a way out.”
Kalemba in a separate interview said investigations were still underway and the matter would be taken to court when ready.
The chief State prosecutor is on record to have said that he did not want to take a matter to court fully aware he was not going to secure convictions, suggesting he needed watertight investigations before proceeding.
But Assani admitted it did not make sense that a 2011 matter was still being investigated up to now and has not been ready for court.
The Justice Minister said: “We want justice on this matter. Malawians including Chasowa’s family members want to know how this university student was murdered and the motive. But with the idea we have hatched, we are hopeful this matter would be concluded.”
But in response to a questionnaire, national police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo said an investigation report on the death of Chasowa was handed over to the DPP for perusal and directives, adding if found complete the matter would be taken to court for prosecutions.
Manjolo said police await the outcome on the matter and refused to directly respond to Assani’s accusations.
President Joyce Banda, after she was sworn in as President, said the death of Chasowa,
as a mother, pained her and said she wanted to see justice done.
At the swearing-in of the commissioners of the inquiry in Blantyre to probe the matter,
she said it was clear Chasowa was murdered.
An insider in the investigations team disclosed that the Justice Andrew Nyirenda commission of inquiry the President instituted to probe Chasowa’s death few days after she took power following the death of Mutharika on April 5 2012 should not have mentioned names.
The source said an impression was created that the people who were arrested after the commission of inquiry report came out were the ones that murdered Chasowa.
The source said: “This compromised the nature of investigations we have had or still doing. Names should not have been mentioned. The investigation team should have been left to do their professional work.
The source said investigations have been underway and investigators have, at some point, travelled outside the country to follow leads.
In some instances, the source disclosed, some people who would have been handy in the matter have died.
Following the release of the Chasowa commission of inquiry report, police in October 2012 arrested people, mostly members of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whose names were mentioned in the report.
Those arrested, but are currently on bail, included former DPP regional governor (South) Noel Masangwi.
The commission of inquiry named 15 people as possible suspects in the murder of the Polytechnic student.
Mutharika had assured his government was going to institute a commission of inquiry on the death of Chasowa, but he never did until his death in April 2012.
Police, after Chasowa’s death, claimed the student committed suicide and that he had left a suicide note.
But an autopsy report revealed that Chasowa was assaulted to his head by a blunt instrument rather than a fall from a tall building as was claimed by the police.
President Banda, after she took over reins of power following Mutharika’s death, fired the IG Mukhito, among several other senior public officers.