Police brutality is once again rearing its ugly face on Estere Maviyache, 67, who is battling for life at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre after a group of armed police officers and security guards battered her on June 8 this month in Khonjeni in Thyolo District.
The law-enforcers unleashed terror, including firing teargas after Maviyache, alongside several other villagers, invaded a private estate under protest and started cultivating on it.
As if the beating was not enough, for six days, police in Luchenza locked up the defenceless granny with a fractured and swollen right arm without referring her to hospital for treatment.
That was not all. Police also allegedly asked the woman to pay them K80 000 to procure her gratis emancipation. However, her relations only managed to pay K50 000 to secure her release.
The incident comes against the background of intense police officers’ criticism and calls for the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to reform, an undertaking the establishment appears to have continued to brush-off as exhibited by its rising brutal cases.
The victims are among thousands of landless citizens in Thyolo and Mulanje who are fighting to reclaim idle land owned by estate owners. The villagers claim the land was forcefully grabbed from their ancestors in the colonial era.
The villagers are also demanding to become shareholders of all the tea, macadamia, coffee and tungsten plantations in the two districts.
On Tuesday, Weekend Nation visited the struggling Maviyache at QECH, in Ward 5B, and found her in great pain, with her right arm which was swathed in bandages.
Maviyache’s niece Mayi Jordan, who is her guardian, told us doctors operated on her aunt last Friday, after she had stayed for 10 days with the untreated arm.
She explained that doctors recommended insertion of pins (metal wire) into her aunt’s bones after assessing the condition which revealed she had suffered a broken arm and a sprain in her wrist.
Maviyache had spent six days in cell at Luchenza Police and four days waiting at QECH before she was taken to the theatre to have her fractured arm operated on, according Jordan.
“When I visited her at Luchenza Police on June 14, I noticed she was not only in great pain, but was also experiencing fear, trauma and anxiety and needed urgent medical treatment,” said Jordan.
“But we were ordered to pay K80 000 for her to be released. We didn’t have the money, so my sister obtained a village bank loan for K50 000. We pleaded with them and paid that sum as part payment through Mr Kamtukule.
“We pledged to settle the balance once we are discharged from hospital, but this police officer [Mr Kamtukule], has been calling me demanding the balance, yet I told him the balance would be cleared once we are out of hospital,” she said.
On Wednesday, Kamtukule first denied any knowledge of the matter when Weekend Nation contacted him on his mobile phone to explain the K80 000 and the alleged K50 000 payment.
But, afterwards, he indicated that the K80 000 was a court fine. However, he could not justify his involvement in receiving the K50 000 on behalf of the said court (without issuing a government receipt), and also his persistent reminders to Jordan about the K30 000 balance.
Said Kamtukule: “Anyway, call me later, maybe after 30 minutes because I am now busy.” He did not pick up his both mobile phones later, after the agreed time.
Other villagers who were beaten alongside Maviyache are Maxwell Savala and 64-year-old Ida Jussa both of Beula Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kapichi, Thyolo.
Commissioner of Police Chikondi Chingadza, who is responsible for South West Division, under which Luchenza Police Station falls, told Weekend Nation she was not aware of the incidents.
She also declined to comment on claims of K80 000 and K50 000 the victim alleged to have given Mr Kumtukule, saying: “Let them report that to ACB.”
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (Cdedi), a human and social rights group leading the indigenous people to reclaim idle land has since given Inspector General of Police George Kainja 14 days to ensure the culprits are brought to book.
“We reiterate that Malawi is not a police State and, as such, these law enforcers should immediately stop their unwarranted merciless beating of innocent citizens,” said Cdedi executive director Sylvester Namiwa in an interview.