After years of pushing, the Independent Complaints Commission is finally at work. The Commission’s mandate is to look into complaints against the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and its officers. Police brutality and general misconduct has been an issue for some time. With the ICC in place, should Malawians hope for a truly reformed Police Service? Our reporter engaged the director for the Commission, CHRISTOSPHER TUKULA, on this and many more. Experts:
Q: Firstly give us a glimpse of what you’re organisation is all about?
A: We are an independent body that strives to promote accountability in the Malawi Police Service, monitors their conduct and handles complaints lodged against them. The body formally opened its doors in January of this year. We are mandated to investigate issues we may have observed as wrong in the public domain.
Q: How many complaints have you registered?
A: Since January, we have received 99 complaints from the public through walk ins, e-mails and phone calls. Some of the complaints dominating the list include Police brutality and corruption where suspects are asked to pay money in exchange for freedom. Currently, we are investigating 14 cases centering on death in police custody or death at the hands of the police such as police shootings.
Q: With such a magnitude of complaints—and surely you are likely to have more—do you have the capacity to handle all these cases?
A: Currently the institution has two investigators tackling cases from all regions in the country. I guess this is on the lower number and we are welcoming to improve our capacity in so many areas and one of the issues we are looking at is human resource. We plan to recruit four investigators on consultancy basis and five others permanently to raise the numbers. We want to have a team that is gender balanced because currently we do not have female investigators. We have taken over the Msundwe case and we think it is one that would need female investigators as well.
Q: Why are you taking up the Msundwe case? Are you not satisfied with the findings from two State institutions; Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and Police itself?
A: We received several complaints on how the police handled the Msundwe case from the start to the completion. There is a lot of controversy involved as the police say one thing and MHRC another making it hard to find an objective view. We applaud the police for responding to the call to investigate the matter and our investigation is also responding to a huge public call that wants us to look at the conduct of the police during the operation in Msundwe and how they conducted their investigation. I must say this is a resource demanding exercise and the complaints came after the financial year had already started, meaning we have no extra resources for this. But due to public interest in this case, we had to re-align our budget to have this case accommodated. We hope along the way we will have more partners coming in to support us.
Q: What time frame have you given the Msundwe Case?
A: We hope that by 1st October this year we would have started our investigation of this case. This is an important matter we need to dispose urgently.