Court acquits owner of boat in Rumphi Easter tragedy case

First Grade Magistrate Court in Nkhata Bay District has acquitted owner of boat that capsized on Lake Malawi in Rumphi District killing about 17 people on Easter this year.

Nkhugomegza kupemphera boat used by people in the area

Harrison Ngwira, 69, pleaded not guilty to charges of sending on Lake Malawi waters an unseaworthy vessel contrary to section 150(2) of the Inland Waters Shipping Act.

The court heard that on the 16th April, 2017 at New Salawe (northern part of Malawi), his boat called Nkhugomegza Kupemphera carried on board 71 passengers instead of 30 passengers which is the authorized number of passengers.

“Due to overloading the boat capsized; 17 passengers died, 54 passengers survived,” Police Prosecutor Sergeant Keston Chiona told the court.

The court further heard that since 2008 the boat was operated by Bambalapa Ngwira who is son to the accused.

The state paraded witnesses including Nkhata Bay surveyor of vessels a Mr. Juma.

First Grade Magistrate, Maston Phiri, said Bambalapa Ngwira is the one who can tell the truth as to who ordered or allowed him to overload.

“Without Bambalapa Ngwira, the court is hesitant to convict the accused on allowing the boat to overload,” Phiri said.

He further said the evidence given by the State in proving the charge of sending on Malawi waters an unseaworthy vessel contrary to section 150(2) of the Inland Waters Shipping Act is doubtful.

He, therefore, found the accused not guilty and acquitted him forthwith.

Harrison Ngwira hails from Kabero Village in the area of Sub Traditional Authority (STA) Mkondowe in Nkhata Bay District.

 

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