Mukhito: Police chief or mafia don?

Nyasa Times Editorial:

Peter Mukhito is the current Inspector General of Police in Malawi. He has gained notoriety for his involvement in interrogating Blessings Chinsinga which began the stand-off for academic freedom in Malawi between Chinsinga and President Bingu wa Mutharika. He was also involved in the investigation in the death of Robert Chasowa.

This is how Wikipedia, a site not very recommended for academic research, sums up Mr Peter Mukhito. Of course, this is not a very flattering profile for Mr Mukhito personally. Further, it is a disgrace for any country to have such a man supposedly to guarantee that everybody goes about their business and sleeps in a safe and secure country.

Nyasa Times, Malawi’s leading news breaker, has hinted that very soon, in fact as soon as President Mutharika is back from wherever he is, Wikipedia may be updated with news of Peter Mukhito’ s dismissal and/ or a possible reassignment. In the light of Wikipedia’s assessment of Mukhito, this will make sense and is long overdue.

But the problem is that: such decisions (hiring and firing country’s top cops) should not be arrived at based on what Wikipedia says, or what Nyasa Timeshints at, for that matter. Mukhito’ s dismissal or reassignment, whatever will be decided finally, has to depend on a professional and fair assessment of the works of his hands. And this is what this editorial piece seeks to do, without fear or favour.

Mukhito: He must go!

There is a whole litany of events which have put the Malawi Police Service in very bad light under Peter Mukhito’s leadership. Key among them is:

  1. 1.      His involvement in and his attempted cover up of the assassination of Robert Chasowa;
  2. 2.      His handling of the July 20 mass demonstrations and riots;
  3. 3.      Police ineptitude and inefficiency as result of poor leadership that drove the peaceful people of Mitundu to the extent of burning a police station;
  4. 4.      Police failure to apprehend, to this day, criminals like Chanthunya, and
  5. 5.      His encroachment of Academic Freedom.

Now let us get this right: Robert Chasowa was human being and he would not have lived forever. But  having said that, he did not need to die such a death when the police were very much aware that there were people who felt threatened by his being alive.

Unless it was in Mukhito’s interest that he dies, Mukhito and his deputies should have ensured that the young man was protected 24/7. Fine, let us move on and accept that there is no point in crying over spilt milk.

After the young man had been killed; Mukhito, having been involved with the young man and knowing the characters that the young man wanted to expose, Mukhito should have quickly apprehended these characters as the prime suspects instead of quickly and conveniently writing off the death as suicide and while he was about it, going to the extent of bandying about fake suicide notes and almost forging a post mortem to justify quick closure of the case.

What does one make of this? The only conclusion is that Mukhito had a hand in the young man’s death and if the President is to maintain him as the country’s top cop then the President might as well pardon all the criminals in our overcrowded prisons. Honestly, if Mukhito and Chasowa’s killers do not belong in prison, who does?

Of how the Malawi Police, under the “excellent” leadership of Peter Mukhito, messed up and turned a planned peaceful July 20 mass demonstration into bloody mayhem; that left at least 20 people dead, many others wounded and several other arrested; nothing can better the report prepared independently by the Malawi Human Rights Commission. Given the overwhelming evidence of police brutality and incompetence contained there-in why is Mukhito not, in the very least, on interdiction?

Ok, let us give it to Peter Mukhito that demonstrations world over, even in the UK and Greece, can turn ugly – so let us grant Mukhito the benefit of doubt. But before we do that, let us move to Mitundu, where President Mutharika’s in-laws are being butchered in their homes and the police are, as far as the public is concerned, sitting phwii!

Now, the resultant Mitundu uprising was neither a result of Civil Society incitement, nor was it the handiwork of a “northerner”. In fact, Mitundu is in the central region – very far from the north and not home to any regime change agent – as far as we are aware. When mere villagers, fed up by police ineffectuality, burn and loot a police post in anger, what does this say about the police service and protection?

Under what circumstances could the Police boss possibly justify his continued employment? If and only if he was employed and is paid to foster an environment of fear, chaos, insecurity, and anarchy could he dare to justify his continued employment, we say. Retaining such a person as the country’s cop is an act of gross negligence by the President of the republic, and one that is bound to backfire.

We will not, to the above add the issue of his violation of the Kampala Declaration for Academic Freedom because that (Academic Freedom) is beyond Mukhito. As a man who, if taken to Chancellor College, cannot point out where the porters lodge is not to say the library, it is unfair to expect him to be aware of the existence of abstract but non-negotiable concepts and conventions like Academic Freedom.

We cannot, on top of the above, talk about the Malawi police’s complicity in aiding the escape from justice of fugitive criminals like Misozi Chanthunya because, over his term as Inspector General, Mukhito has more than demonstrated that the only people he can promptly apprehend are those that are not, one way or another, connected with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the powers that be.

To criminals this reads: join the DPP and you have a licence to kill, extort, and threaten anyone impunity. Is anybody therefore surprised at the increasing state of lawlessness in Malawi? What more evidence do we need to drive this point home when none of the panga wielding youths that terrorized Blantyre on DPP vehicles have been arrested?

How does one explain and reconcile the fact that the Malawi Police, that can quickly round-up a handful of non-violent people carrying a harmless placard is incapable of apprehending DPP machete wielding thugs that went about beating mandasi sellers on July 19?

In Mr. Peter Mukhito, President Bingu wa Mutharika does not have the finest Inspector General that commanded the Police Service in Malawi, no. On the contrary, President Mutharika has a mafia godfather, as the country’s top cop.

And this casts doubts, serious doubts, on the President’s and the DPP’s claims to be governing in an environment where the rule of law is supreme. Peter Mukhito should go!

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