While police brutality cases were fast being confined to history, police officers manning a road block near Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) a fortnight ago allegedly turned back hopes of a reformed service by beating up and jailing a man for the whole weekend. His crime? Carrying a laptop.
Gladson Ritchie, 28, an accountant was driving from Mponela when he was stopped at the roadblock on that fateful Saturday evening by officers who questioned him over receipts of his laptop, which he says has used for over a year.
“I was coming from Mponela, at around 9.45pm, where I had gone to see a friend. At Dowa road block, I met a cruiser from Area 3 Police Station. A female officer came on my car and requested to search. She saw a laptop on the back seat, which she took and demanded receipts for it. I told her the laptop was mike and asked her to open it to verify data inside, which she refused. Instead, she took me to her boss,” Richie narrated the ordeal.
He said to his surprise the officers arrested him, and threw him into the cruiser, but minutes later decided to release him but without returning the laptop.
Richie said, fearing that he would lose the laptop, he refused to go home without it. So, he trailed the officers to Lilongwe police station where the officers once again arrested him, and started beating him up.
“Without charging me of any crime or recording me any statement, they took me inside the cell and locked me up from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon,” said Richie.
He said he was subsequently released without any charges or recorded statement after his family engaged a lawyer, but until now he has no idea what crime he committed.
When contacted, Lilongwe Police Station spokesperson Ramsey Mushani said he was not aware of the incident.
“At the moment I have no information on that arrest,” said Mushani.
But Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) executive director Victor Mhango said in an interview, such abuse of office was commonplace among police officers and it was high time officers were held accountable for their excesses.
“This is police brutality. This is torture. The problem with police officers is that they think they are above the law when in uniform. This is a crop of police officers we do not want in a democratic Malawi.
“Instead of investigating cases, they always resort to torture. It is high time such incidents were properly investigated and those responsible were brought to account for their deeds,” said Mhango. n