Karonga police blame rights activists for crime surge

Police in Malawi’s northern border district of Karonga are blaming human rights activist for the increase in crime rate and the dwindling of security services in the district, saying they are encouraging wrong doings in name of human rights.

This came to light during the meeting which among other issued aimed to end illegal vending in the district.

Karonga Police Officer In-charge Foster Mangani said police fail to conduct their duties to end crimes in the district partly because of illegal vending which he said is one of contributing factors toward the increase in crime rate in the district.

“Illegal vending involves a lot of activities because they trade in wrong places, people take advantage of it by engaging  into stealing and doing all sorts of crimes. But when the police try to exercise its duty, we are taken to court for violating their rights which is a worrisome development, ” said Mangani.

Police on guard to ensure maximum security--Photos by Canaan Munthali, Photographers Association of Malawi- PHOTAMA
Police on guard to ensure maximum security–Photos by Canaan Munthali, Photographers Association of Malawi- PHOTAMA

He cited a recent example where illegal vendors led by the human rights activists known as Karonga Civil Society Network wrote a letter to the council and police that they will hold streets protest against the lawenforces should they not return the property they confiscated during the anti-illegal vending exercise.

Karonga District Council officials confirmed having receiving the letter by Karonga Civil Society Network threatening demonstrations against them and the police for of collecting properties from people they suspected to have trading in wrong places.

“The local Government Act does not allow people to trade in places that are not recognize as markets and everyone who do not adhere to that faces penalties that is why we did that,” said Karonga Urban Director Geoffrey Mkandawire, adding: “Illegal vending causes a lot of problems and we are not at peace because of them, they bring security threat to the district.”

But chairperson for Karonga Civil Society Network Yonamu Leman denied reports that they are planning to hold demonstration any time soon saying they were only want justice to be done on the matter.

“On the issue that we are going to demonstrate is not true though it’s optional if they fail to do what we want from them. We may do it but not now, what we want is them to exercise their duties professionally,” said Leman.

He appealed to the council officials and the police that they should avoid being bribed when carrying out their duties saying it has been discovered that some confiscated goods have been released upon payment of bribes demanded by some council officials.

A latest crime report released by Karonga Police has revealed an increase in crime by nine per cent during the first quarter of 2013 with property worth K16 million lost to theft.

“Currently, one police officer is serving a population of 1,038 which is contrary to a recommended ratio of 500 people per one police officer,” Mangani said.

Mangani further said adequate funding to police activities in the district can help to reduce theft cases.

“In seven police formations, we receive a monthly allocation of K1 million of which 80 per cent is used for buying fuel for conducting patrols and other duties,” he explained.

Karonga District, a fast growing social and economic areathat boasts of uranium mining and high agricultural production, has a population of about 317, 000.

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