Malawi Police probes officer for giving false information: Chasowa murder case

Malawi Police Service has reportedly instituted criminal investigations into allegations that some of the witnesses that testified in Robert Chasowa commission of enquiry gave incoherent and false information, Nyasa Times can reveal.

Among the witnesses being investigated include one of its own officers detective sergeant Hannah Senduwa, who according to Nyasa Times sources, may have doctored some of the information.

Chasowa, an engineering student who was president of a youth rights group at the Polytechnic in Blantyre, which was critical of the late Bingu wa Mutharika regime, was during the reign of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) found dead in a pool of blood at the campus last September.

Police had initially said he had committed suicide and produced suicide notes.

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The Justice Andrew Nyirenda Commission report faulted Police for not making measures “to preserve the scene and did not invite a medical examiner to examine the body before it was removed from the scene. ”

Police officier familiar with the investigations said Senduwa mentioned in her testimony some senior police officers who were either not on duty as she alleged or were on other assignments.

Ironically, of all the witnesses that were questioned by the Commisison, it is only Senduwa and politician Humphrey Mvula who asked to be included on the list of selected witnesses.

According to the report, Senduwa implicated senior police bosses alleging that they were present at the south region police headquarters on the night Chasowa died.

These included Stanley Chaima, Caroline Jere, Deputy Commissioner Lexa Chalera, Commissioner Rodney Jose, Assistant Commissioner Dave Chingwalu, Deputy Commissioner Willie Mwaluka, the then Inspector general Peter Mukhito and Sub Inspector George Mwalilino.

However, according to police investigations, Mukhito, Chalera, Chingwalu, Jose and Mwaluka were not in Blantyre at the material time and this has triggered speculations that Senduwa might have been used by some politicians.

“We are actually probing Senduwa and other civilians who were witnesses in the enquiry because we have found out that most of their testimonies were not tallying with the physical evidence at hand.

“For instance in the report they say, our former IG Mr. Mukhito was at our southern region headquarters but we have found out that he was actually in Lilongwe together with Mr. Jose and Mr. Mwaluka. This is a crime on its own and once we establish that there was deliberate move to twist information we will charge all witnesses who lied to the commission,” disclosed the source who spoke on anonymity condition.

Meanwhile, southern region police publicist Nicholas Gondwa while admitting that giving false information to a public hearing is a criminal act, refused to give details on Senduwa probe.

“Yes, if you are found to have lied to the commission the police can actually prosecute you. However, I have no knowledge at the moment on whether indeed there are those investigations underway,” said Gondwa.

On his part, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John Gift Mwankhwawa said if at all the reports are true then those responsible must be prosecuted.

He said soon after the report was released he realized that most of the information given by the witnesses waere contradictory and that is the reason why lawyers body  issued a statement calling on the authorities to investigate if any of the witnesses lied so that they face prosecution.

“While not every police officer who was involved in the events leading up to and after the death of Mr. Chasowa may be criminally liable, the Society believes that the conduct of most of these officers was most reprehensible and fell short of the standards demanded by the Constitution and other written laws.”

The lawyer’s body also  said witnesses, who testified  before the Chasowa Inquiry and told lies on certain aspects of their testimony , must be prosecuted.

“It should be put on record that knowingly giving false testimony…is a criminal offence under the Penal Code known as Perjury and Subornationof Perjury, respectively.

“Such offences are punishable with up to seven years imprisonment in the event of conviction. The society takes the view that those who further attempted to muddle the truth during the Chasowa Inquiry by knowingly telling the commission lies should not be allowed to getaway with it.”

According to the Chasowa enquiry report, the commission interviewed all the police officers that Detective Sergeant Senduwa mentioned.

However, all the Police Officers, except two, denied being at the region headquarters on the night of Chasowa’s death on September 23, 2011.

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