Police nab 4th suspect, charged with manslaughter

Malawi Police have arrested the fourth suspect in an alleged syndicate to transport illegal immigrants to Malawi who drowned while trying to cross Lake Malawi which three weeks ago.

About 49 of the reported 60 Ethiopian and Somali illegal immigrants drowned on Lake Malawi in Karonga District after an overcrowded boat they were sailing in capsized.

Police identified the suspect as 27-year-old Isaac Chimbatata from Chaphuka village, T/A Zulu in Mchinji district but based in Tanzania.

Chimbatata has since been charged with manslaughter by the Karonga First Grade Magistrate George Longwe.

However, Magistrate Longwe will hand over Chimbatata’s file to the High Court which will proceed with the hearing of the case.

Chimbatata, who is currently on remand, is alleged to have provided his engine boat to the illegal immigrants to use in illegally entering Malawi.

“The suspect provided his boat on the night of 18 June 2012 at Mbamba Beach in Chakwera village, T/A Kilupula in Karonga District. On the same night, the boat capsized due to overloading and 49 illegal immigrants drowned,” a police prosecutor who is handling the case said.

Immediately after the accident, police apprehended three other Malawians suspected of being part of the unlawful consortium aiding the fake asylum seekers.

The three who are also on remand at Rumphi Prison and answering to the charge of manslaughter, are John Mwangonde, 27, from Katula village, Farai Chirambo, 20, of Mwalimba village and 30-year-old Symon Chukumbala of Mwakawoko village of from T/A Kilupula in Karonga District.

The bodies of all the 49 Somali and Ethiopian immigrants were buried in mass graves because they had decomposed in the shore villages of Mponda and Chakwera, T/A Kilupula.

Members of the community from the two villages saw the dead bodies floating on the lake, which straddles the border between Malawi and Tanzania, and a boat floating upside down.

The Head of United Nations High Commission for Refugee in Malawi, Caroline van Buren, told international press the Karonga fatalities were the highest recorded in recent times.

She also said corrupt police officers across the region are paid by smugglers to help or look the other way as the immigrants make their way.

“ Incidents of Ethiopians and Somalis showing up in villages in northern Malawi are not new. They are usually helped to cross the lake. Sometimes the migrants, usually tired, hungry and sick, are
dumped on the Malawi side to negotiate their way across Malawi to the Mozambican border, where a fresh set of smugglers help them to cross into Mozambique,” she told AFP.

Mostly aided by a syndicate of Malawians and Tanzanians, the majority of these illegal immigrants hope to make their way to the regional economic powerhouse, South Africa but end up in the hands of law enforcers.

In 2007, scores of Ethiopian fortune seekers were discovered hidden in an oil tanker at one of Malawi’s main boarders, Mwanza, on their way to South Africa through Mozambique.

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