A witness in the case of two Maula Prison guards who are accused of aiding the recent prison break of four inmates yesterday told Lilongwe Magistrate’s Court that prisoners escape the prison frequently.
Sergent Gabriel Chipala, who was the guard commander on the night of July 10 when four prisoners escaped, was brought by the State to testify against Jonathan Themba, 29, and Steven Mwase, 24, who were guarding the remand section from where the four escapees broke out.
In his testimony, Chipala said on the material night, the accused had left their post as they were seen running from the prison’s school section after shouts were heard that some prisoners were escaping.
During cross-examination, a lawyer representing the two, Yasin Maoni, asked Chipala to disclose the frequency of prison breaks at Maula, a question that compelled Chipala to disclose that incidents mostly go unreported.
“In the six years that I have worked at the prison, there have been many incidents of prisoners escaping. During the week that the four prisoners escaped, one prisoner had escaped while working in the garden, but I can say it is the first time I have encountered an incident of prisoners escaping from a locked cell block,” Chipala said.
Chipala also told the court that the remand section has only one lightbulb and that the cell block, where the escapees were held, had only one padlock as the master lock as the door had malfunctioned a long time ago.
Chief resident magistrate Ruth Chinangwa wondered how the lock would have been broken while the guards were at the nearby school.
Chipala responded that the school is about 10 metres from the remand cell blocks and can be seen from both sides.
Chinangwa has since ordered that the court should visit the prison to assess the scene in an attempt to understand how the crime was committed.
“I adjourn the case till tomorrow morning whereby we shall converge at the prison to have a practical perception of how the prison break was done and from there we shall start hearing from the second State witness,” ruled Chinangwa.
The two guards, who are currently on bail, are answering the charge of permitting prisoners to escape contrary to Section 116 of the Penal Code which states that any person who, having another person lawfully in his custody, intentionally or negligently permits that other person to escape, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.