Bishop Mkhori’s Commission is compromised

Robert Chasowa’s death has provoked an enormous outburst of public indignation and protest in the country. Malawians cannot afford yet another dark era where the country slides back to the one party state and is governed with impunity and hence all Malawians of good will and intentions should demand an impartial Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the death of the Polytechnic student.

From the various reports that have so far come up, one can see Government’s hand in this callous, cold-blooded murder of an unarmed, defenceless college student all at the behest of some individuals that are drunk with power and are intent to cling to power at all costs and manner with absolute disregard to the sanctity of life.

Whatever the substance of the allegations of what transpired, these to an extent form a very integral part of the last moments of the poor student and hence if Government as it claims had no hand in this murder, then it ought to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry preferably headed by a retired Supreme Court judge assisted by clean, untainted individuals as commissioners. I should however hasten say the Bishop Mkhori’s Commission of Inquiry falls far short of this and hence is compromised to come up with impartial findings on the death of Robert.

Mkhori; Head inquiry

Bingu’s commission is meant to hoodwink Malawians and it is an attempt to absolve his Government of any wrong-doing. Unfolding events and information at hand, however indicate otherwise and this will not stick . Circumstances, and unfolding events point to the involvement and complicity of Police in the murder of Robert and hence before this CoI even sits down to undertake it’s work, the Commissioner of Police Mr Mukhitho should be suspended forthwith and pave way for investigations into his involvement in this murder.

To this end, the Bishop Mkhori’s commission is compromised and may not result in the prosecution of the persons responsible for Robert’s death given the dubious credentials of some members of the commission. The decision by Bingu to use former police officers who have been in office during Bingu’s term and dubious lawyers with very questionable credentials makes it virtually impossible for an independent investigation to take place. There is a danger that since Mukhito is suspected of involvement in Robert’s death, justice may never be done. This creates a flawed process which raises crucial questions particularly in relation to the independence of the person of Titus  Thyolamwendo a former police officer and the other individuals who have been assigned to the inquiry as commissioners.

Already, the police have bungled the investigation even before the post-mortem could be carried out. In the days following Robert’s death, the police have made several questionable actions. These included denying Robert’s father access to his body, secondly giving conflicting reports about the circumstances under which his body was found. Thirdly, Police reports on the murder have not helped things either as they rushed to conclusions even before a post-mortem was undertaken giving a distinct impression of attempted high-level cover-up.

As can be read elsewhere on the internet, some indications point to the involvement of Police Commissioner Mukhito and hence it is critically important for there to be clear police leadership other than that of Mukhitho to guarantee an impartial and transparent investigation.

Given these serious concerns, I believe Bingu wa Mutharika needs to urgently establish an independent judiciary commission of inquiry. The commission should be composed of members appointed on the basis of their recognized impartiality, competence, integrity and independence as individuals. The commission should include a professor of law or criminology not just an ordinary, dubious lawyer of unknown credentials, a forensic scientist, telecommunications experts, a respectable member of the civil society organization in Malawi, an expert from the African Union, an expert from the United Nations, an expect from SADC, and a retired Supreme Court judge.

The commission should have authority to obtain all the information it needs to clarify the context and circumstances of the death of Robert; it should have power to summon attendance and cooperation of witnesses including officials the likes of Mukhitho, Kaliati and DPP officials being mentioned.

It should summon telephone records from MACRA, TNM and Airtel in particular of the telephone numbers of the individuals being mentioned in the grapevine and investigate the telephone numbers also doing the rounds on the internet. In particular, the telecommunications expert should track the cellphone records of these people including the late Robert himself. Using the multiple GSM antennas in and around Blantyre, the expert should be able to track his movements and those of the people implicated in his murder either using the cellphone numbers or handsets used by these people. Each handset has a unique identification number on the GSM network hence the records of those implicated should be easy to find and should they have changed handsets it will be seen from these investigations.

According to International Telecommunications Union (ITU), carriers like Airtel, MTN are mandated to keep records of which towers the phone has contacted or has been in communication with which means cellphones of all the people involved including the late Robert will be tracked to within a few hundred yards to where the last calls were made either incoming or outgoing. The beauty of the technology is that in urban areas tracking can be done almost to the block where his body was found.

The commission will also have the ability to gather inputs from impartial legal advisors, independent experts and other critical services as required. At the same time the commission should aim to clarify the facts and to establish both individual criminal responsibility and the responsibility of the Bingu administration in the callous murder of Chasowa.

To this end, I strongly urge Bingu wa Mutharika to put in place an independent and credible commission of inquiry so that the outcome of the process is acceptable to all and most importantly that those found responsible for Robert’s death are brought to book so that justice can prevail. This will go a long way in ensuring that Malawi does not slide back to the dark days of the Malawi Congress Party where party and government officials operated with impunity.

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