A leaked report by the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to the local press reveals that a lawyer, a Member of Parliament and local politicians were masterminds in staging the Msundwe rape case saga in which the alleged rape victims were cajoled into making the “false” claims.
The Msundwe rape case saga occurred at the height of a heated political campaign ahead of the fresh June 23, 2020 presidential election after the constitutional court had nullified the May 2019 presidential election.
During the time, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) investigative report revealed that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three under-18 girls on October 8 2019. It cited Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu as areas where the abuses occurred.
Recently, Women Lawyers Association (WLA) – Malawi has come under fire from the public after the High Court in Lilongwe awarded them K255 684 112.00 as bill of costs they incurred in the course of their representing Msundwe rape victims when, in fact, it is on record that they were representing their clients pro bono—free of charge.
Commentators and legal practitioners in the country have questioned the manner in which the Msundwe rape case has been handled along, citing “suspicious” happenings – including the award of a hefty amount of money to WLA who were supposedly supposed to be free of charge.
The MPS report, titled ‘Investigation report on alleged sexual abuse of women and girls by police officers at M’bwatalika and Mpingu Trading Centres’ and dated February 2020, described some of the claims made as “make-up stories”, “false” and without “sufficient” and “corroborating” evidence.
In December 2019, then Director of Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Stain Chaima, instituted a team of 6 members on 31 December 2019 to look into the Msundwe rape saga.
The six were Agness Mwabumba, Regional Criminal Investigations Officer for the North; Diederichs Banda, Officer In-Charge for Crime Analysis; Master Nkhoma, Regional Criminal Investigations Officer, South; Chrissy Mwale, Regional Criminal Investigations Officer, East; Florence Chiwambo, Station Criminal Investigation Officer for Mwanza and John Petro, a detective at Fiscal Police, Blantyre.
According to an introduction to the report, they conducted the re-interviews in the company of some MHRC officials and traditional leaders from the area.
The report says despite the claim by the alleged victims that they could not identify the police officers alleged to have perpetrated the incidents, all police officers on duty were interviewed and all denied the allegation.
According to the report, without direct and corroborating evidence, the allegations seemed to be “untrue” and “false.”
The investigators say that the women were enticed to allege the sexual harassments incidents so that they can get compensation.
Some of the medical reports that were presented as evidence, according to the report, were forged and illegally obtained.
“The hospitals, where they alleged to have been examined, are dishonouring [sic] the medical reports,” it says.
It wonders why the victims avoided government and Cham [Christian Health Association of Malawi] hospitals that were “within reach by foot”.
Instead, they were taken to other far-off hospitals – and, that is, two weeks later.
According to the report, the victims were coerced by some politicians to report the matter to the police. They did not on their own. And, during scene visit six victims were not available following the advice given by politicians.
The report further questions how all the said sexual offences could have been committed at around the same time — 11am.
Reads the report in part: “Many incidents are alleged to have occurred at the same time which cannot happen in normal circumstances. This is an indicator that the allegations were maliciously planned and originated by some interested quarters for their own reasons.
“According to findings during scene visit of incidents as reported at Mpingu, it has been discovered that the situation was volatile and that the distance between the trading centre where the [police] base was located and the village houses is very far, such that it could have been difficult for someone to carry out such acts comfortably.”
About a claim by one woman that she was impregnated during the rape, the police report says it established that the woman was already two-months pregnant at the time of the incident.
For another victim who claimed that she was infected during rape incident, the report says her medical passport showed she was on treatment at the time of the events.
The police investigation came two weeks after MHRC had run its own investigation in which it says in the course of operations of clearing the road, controlling the crowds and making arrests, some police officers ventured as far as 1 kilometre into the villages and nearby locations, throwing teargas into houses, beating up people and breaking into houses and properties therein.
“As a result, most people especially men and the youth fled their villages to their gardens, leaving the villages deserted. Some of the women left behind in the village as others fled or arrived in the villages after the others had fled, in particular, Mpingu and M’bwatalika, were met with police officers who violently beat them, raped and indecently assaulted them,” the MHRC report says.
The MHRC investigation, led by commissioners Martha Chizuma and Rosemary Kanyuka, indicates that a total of 17 women were sexually violated.
The MHRC report indicates the limitations of the investigation and mitigation factors saying the investigation was conducted almost one week after the alleged violations had been committed.
“This was due to the fact that the Commission only heard about the allegations a few days after the incidents. In addition, due to the tense situation prevailing in the area, it took time for the Commission to establish contact with community leaders to help with preliminary inquiries.
“Medical examination on the survivors was conducted late leading to the probable loss of forensic evidence to prove the allegation. However, mitigating factors include the survivors’ own testimony and witness evidence, particularly where two or more survivors were raped, defiled or indecently assaulted in each other’s presence,” reads part of the report.
Asked whether they would institute a fresh investigation following the MPS report, MHRC spokeswoman Kate Kujaliwe, said their report is the basis on which the Malawi Police Service together with other stakeholders have developed Terms of Reference for fresh criminal investigations in the matter.
“Therefore, the Commission cannot comment on this matter until the fresh investigations are completed,” she said.
Nyasa Times has learnt MPS, MHRC, WLA and the United Nations Development Programme have agreed to jointly conduct a fresh investigation into the alleged rape and sexual abuses.
Immaculate Maluza, who is WLAM president, said she could not comment on evidentiary issues when contacted by local press.
“I have gone through the questions again. They seem targeted at the criminal investigation. I am not in a position to discuss that. Further, I cannot comment on evidentiary issues in an ongoing investigation. Thus, I am not in a position to respond to these questions as it goes beyond WLAs mandate,” Maluza said.
National police spokesman, James Kadadzera, confirmed that MPS’ criminal investigation department conducted an investigation into the alleged rape and defilement crimes.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :