The decision by the Malawi Law Society to defend Chancellor College students who suffered at the hands of the overzealous police officers during the recent fees protesthike is commendable. This is the only way for the students to get justice and send the message to the police officers that they are not above the law. The police in Malawi are involved in a lot of unbecoming behaviour for which they get away with.
It is good that the MLS has volunteered to defend the defenseless students against police brutality. Other interest groups and individuals should also join the MLS in prosecuting these police officers to send the message that police brutality will not tolerated in a democratic Malawi. The police should work within the ambit of the law. It sucks when people who are employed to protect the citizens are the ones breaking the law.
The police have victimized many Malawians, but they get away with their excesses because there is no one bold enough to ensure that police officers who overstep their mandate face justice. In a country where unprofessional police conduct is common, one wouldexpect management to take action against the “bad eggs”.
But police management actually shield them. This has made police officers continue with their culture of impunity. Sometimes the police deliberately decline to commenton bad behaviour of their members. It is unfortunate that in the Chancellor College saga, police spokespersons in Zomba and national headquarters ran away from responsibility. It is does not reflect well for public relations.
It is equally unfortunate that the Inspector General of Police declined to comment on the incident. It is not good enough for the police to say they are investigating the incident when they have a video clip and the faces of the police officers can clearly be identified. What investigations are they carrying out? You investigate something unknown and not what is obvious. This is a deliberate move to let the police officers avoid justice, typical behaviour of the Malawi Police Service.
The police usually hide the culprits under the wings of “we are investigating”. But nothing comes out of the investigation as the errant police officers continue with their work, not even suspension. The police buy time and let the issue die a natural death. How many incidents of police brutality have died a natural death as time elapses? Some of us have argued that there is no way the police can investigate their own officers and expect justice. An independent and impartial body is needed.
Because of brutality, harassment and unprofessional behaviour is common, the police have lostintegrity and trust of the people. Days are gone when people would feel secure when they see the police. These days a police officer is potentially a criminal because you cannot trust them. One can be robbed or harassed.
The MLS commendable action should be extended to individuals who have suffered police brutality, but cannot afford a lawyer. It high time police officers are held accountable for their deplorable actions. The IG and Minister of Home Affairs should also talk tough against police brutality. It is not good to keep silent.