Three years after the High Court notified law enforcing agencies to institute criminal proceedings against the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and one of its officers for abuse of office and corruption, there is no progress on the matter.
In a release order dated January 18 2018, Justice Zione Ntaba notified the MPS, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to look into an issue where a police officer, identified as Zintambira, of Masambanjati Police Unit in Thyolo, was accused of arresting Harrison Konala, 21, for refusing to pay a bribe.
According to court records—Konala was detained after he failed to pay a balance of K40 000 of a K50 000 bribe for a murder charge against him to be dropped. He went on to be detained for three months without trial.
While the ACB claims to have investigated the matter and dropped it for lack of evidence, the High Court and Supreme Court registrar Gladys Gondwe said all concerned institutions were served with the court documents, but “no institution complied”.
Two years ago, we published a story which showed that a year after the judgement the Judiciary had not served all concerned parties to implement the order in what the former registrar—now judge of the High Court, Agnes Patemba, called “an omission”.
ACB senior public relations officer Egritta Ndala said they had complied with the court order and that they did their investigation, but the case was closed.
Said Ndala: “The ACB conducted its investigation into the issue of Konala in 2018 and found that Konala was giving conflicting information on some of the issues. The case was closed.”
Both National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera and spokesperson for the office of the DPP have not yet provided responses on the update three weeks after sending them questionnaires.
On its part, MHRC said it will institute an investigation into the matter, because it has just learnt about it from our questionnaire.
“The matter is of great interest to the commission due to human rights issues that it raises and the commission will pursue it. However, the commission is learning about the case now as it was not party to the case. The commission did not receive any communication from the court on the order for our action. We will get details from the court and investigate the matter,” said MHRC executive secretary Habiba Osman.
In a release order dated January 18 2018, Ntaba bemoaned the conduct of the police to have an innocent person arrested without reason. In the order, she notified the police and ACB.
The court records indicate that Konala operated a motorbike taxi in Thyolo and on July 12 2017, he carried two passengers—a male and a female—whom he dropped off at Chipho, near Mozambique border.
On his way back, he met eight men who inquired about the two passengers—one of whom they accused of murder.
The court records further indicate that when Konala could not explain the whereabouts of his passengers, the eight men took away his motorbike.
“He accordingly lodged a complaint at Sandama Police Post and the motorbike was later recovered. The police officer who recovered it demanded a bribe of K50 000, of which he paid K10 000. On his failure to pay the balance, he was arrested for the said murder by Masambaanjati Police,” the order reads, in part.
According to the court, Konala spent three weeks in Masambanjaati Police cell. When he could still not pay the remaining K40 000 bribe, he was transferred to Thyolo Prison before being moved to Chichiri Prison and finally to Zomba Maximum Prison.
In her release order, Ntaba observed that there was no evidence connecting Konala to the murder and that the State had failed to prove the same; hence; his detention was without basis.
“Incidentally, the facts of the case raise further concerns in terms of two issues. Firstly, the fact that the applicant’s liberty was arbitrarily taken away by a police officer who is corrupt, but also abused his office.
“Furthermore, the State machinery perpetuated this said deprivation of liberty. The circumstances of this case are deeply regrettable and I do hope that there is a full investigation into how an innocent man, according to the evidence, has been in custody for over three  months for a crime which he did not perpetrate,” reads part of the ruling.
Ntaba also blamed the State for failing to act with speed on the case.
She said: “I should also state that the speed at which the State has moved on this file is appalling and inexcusable. The State Advocate Chambers houses State advocates who are officers of the court who should be interested in ensuring that they promote and protect human rights”.