A security officer from Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) shot First Year Polytechnic student Blessings Nyondo in Blantyre on the night of December 31 2020, The Nation has learnt.
The revelation, made yesterday when MBC management met Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda at Southern Region Police Headquarters in Blantyre, exonerates the Malawi Police Service (MPS) which has been widely accused of shooting Nyondo, who later died in hospital.
As police were about to face protests organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) at the expiry of five days from January 9 2021, Chimwendo Banda travelled from his base in Lilongwe to Blantyre to meet the MBC team which included the security guard who is suspected to have opened fire and senior police officers led by Acting Commissioner for the Region Chikondi Chingadza.
The minister told journalists after the meeting that what he gathered from the discussion was a confession by MBC that it was their security guard who shot the student twice in “self defence”.
He said the guard admitted during the meeting that he shot Nyondo and explained what happened.
Said Chimwendo Banda: “What we’ve learnt is that an MBC vehicle, a Prado, went to pick police officers from Kanjedza to help with security and were heading towards Kwacha Roundabout on their way to MBC TV, Njamba Studios.
“Suddenly, as there was a queue and vehicles were moving slowly, the late Blessings Nyondo appeared in front of the vehicle, and later opened the door and forced himself in. Once in the vehicle, he started wrestling with the police officer at the back seat to snatch a gun from him, but the police officer managed to escape with his gun.”
The minister said Nyondo allegedly tried to snatch a gun from the MBC security guard who was on the passenger’s seat in front but failed again. As he allegedly attempted to escape the scene, the security guard opened fire as a warning, and fired again to disable the suspect.
Chimwendo Banda said the security guard feared the suspect wanted to steal the vehicle and was reportedly acting in self defence.
He said the victim was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital by the same police and MBC team, but unfortunately he died on January 6.
According to Chimwendo Banda, the police also recorded a statement from a woman who claimed the deceased snatched her handbag and was running away.
The minister said it was not government’s intention to shield anyone, saying this was the ministry’s internal inquiry as Malawians demanded to know what happened.
He said the Police Independence Commission and Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) will investigate the matter and, based on their findings, ensure those implicated face the law.
Chimwendo Banda said he regretted the incident and the loss of life.
Police showed journalists a robbery file that has been opened, and in it, there are claims that the deceased was in the company of two other young men when the suspected attack took place.
In a separate interview after the meeting, MBC acting director general Adrian Gumeni also said it was the public broadcaster’s security guard who fired at Nyondo, and not police.
He said he regretted the incident and sympathised with Nyondo’s family for the loss of their loved one.
Chimwendo Banda was at pains earlier to answer questions from journalists on how one would claim to be acting in self defence when the purported suspect was shot from the back and when he was escaping from the scene.
Admittedly, the minister said like the journalists, he also could not understand how officers in the vehicle failed to arrest an unarmed invader, but argued their findings were not conclusive.
Asked if the preliminary findings, which have been made public, would not jeorpadise independent investigations by MHRC and the Independence Police Commission, Chimwendo Banda said they wanted Malawians to understand what happened.
He said there were all sorts of accusations against the police, planned demonstrations and government felt it was important for Malawians to know what really happened as it may take a while for the independent investigations to yield results.
There have been claims that Nyondo was shot when he was on his way to overnight prayers at Robin’s Park, a stone’s throw away from the purported scene of the incident.
He was a student at The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, who was staying in Chitawira Township from where he was attending weekend classes.