A few days after the Nkhata Bay Magistrate Court acquitted Harrison Ngwira, owner of the boat that capsized on Lake Malawi at Mlowe in Rumphi District during Easter, police say they are still looking for the boat operator Bambalapa Ngwira who is at large.
On 16th April, 2017, Nkhugomezga kupemphera Boat belonging to the 69-year-old Harrison Ngwira capsized while carrying 71 instead of 30 authorized number of passengers on board.
17 passengers died while 54 passengers survived in the accident. Since 2008, the boat had been operated by the owner’s son, Bambalapa Ngwira, who was reported to be at large after the tragedy.
The father was acquitted on charges of sending on Malawi waters an unseaworthy vessel, contrary to section 150 (2) of the Inland Waters Shipping Act.
Nkhata Bay Police Spokesperson Sergeant Ignatius Esau said they are still searching for Bambalapa Ngwira despite the version from relatives that he was amongst those who died during the accident.
“As police, we are still looking for the boat operator although his relatives still say that he might as well be one of those people who drowned,” Sergeant Esau said.
He further said that once Ngwira is arrested, he will answer charges of operating a boat without certificate of competency and operating an unseaworthy boat.
Meanwhile, the law enforcers have appealed to boat operators in the country to operate seaworthy boats to avoid accidents.
“Our message to boat operators is that they should make sure that their boats are seaworthy before sailing and that they carry authorized number of people,” he said.
On passengers, Sergeant Esau said: “They have to be responsible themselves by seeing to it that the boats are carrying recommended number of passengers.”
During the judgment of Harrison Ngwira’s case recently in Nkhata Bay, first grade magistrate Maston Phiri said Bambalapa Ngwira was the one who could tell the truth about who allowed him to overload the boat.
“Without him, the court is hesitant to convict the accused on allowing the boat to overload,” Phiri said.