Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Navicha has been faulted for condemning the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) – a Constitutional body – over its release of a report on rape incidents allegedly committed by police officers against women around Msundwe, Mpingu and Mb’watalika trading centres in Lilongwe.
Navicha in a statement that her ministry has noted “with grave concern” that the MHRC report has not been released officially nor presented to the Ministry and other stakeholders, instead, it is circulating on social media and being discussed with the international media houses.
“This to us, is a sad development. The Ministry would therefore like to condemn such behavior by Malawi Human Rights Commission and request the organization to immediately share the official report with the relevant stakeholders including the Ministry of Gender,
Children, Disability and Social Welfare. This will enable the Ministry address the issues raised and work on the recommendations made,” reads a statement from Navicha.
But dean of the faculty of law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Dr Sunduzwayo Madise, have faulted the minister, saying the report is “public”.
Madise highlighted that MHRC is a Constitutuonal body which is given supreme powers in Chapter XI of the country’s charter.
He states the the Constitution givers MHRC powers of investigation and recommendation.
Minister Navicha’s rap of MHRC comes after Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, who is also government spokesperson, stated that the MHRC report was challengeable because currently the commission does not have commissioners to carry out such task.
Botomani said the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and the Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka, who conducted the investigation and released the report in Lilongwe last Wednesday, were only acting as MHRC advisers and not commissioners.
But the Ombudsman said she was “not sure which Constitution the minister is reading where it refers to[me]and the Law Commissioner as advisers of MHRC”.
“What I know is that by Section 130 of the Constitution currently in use in Malawi, the Law Commissioner and myself are commissioners of MHRC. I know a few people have raised this issue before but my view based on the reading of the Constitution is that by making the Law Commissioner and Ombudsman as commissioners, the law never envisaged complete lacunae in the commission, considering that human rights violations never wait for full commission,” explained Chizuma.
The Ombudsman further said it was her view that all interventions they were making are covered under Section 42 of the Interpretation Act.
In their report, Chizuma and Kanyuka said they established that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation around the area.
The report says the police officers committed the incidents as the women fled violent scenes.
Among others, MHRC recommends that acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa should institute criminal investigations into the matter, targeting police officers deployed at Mpingu and M’bwatalika.
The European Union (EU) has since demanded “swift and decisive” reaction by competent national authorities on police officers accused of rape and wants to see authorities urgently providing the victims with full support.
For some months, MHRC has had no commissioners except for the Ombudsman Martha Chizuma and Law Commissioner Rosemary Kanyuka, who are ex-officio commissioners, following a standing injunction obtained by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) stopping the swearing in of the appointed people.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :