Court fails to enforce own order

The High Court of Malawi has been caught sitting on its own order in which it requested the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to investigate the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and a police officer for abuse of office and corruption allegations.

Presiding over the case in January last year, judge Zione Ntaba ordered ACB and the DPP to pounce on MPS and the officer, identified as Zintambira of Masambanjati Police Unit in Thyolo, for wrongfully arresting and detaining without trial Harrison Konala, 21, for allegedly failing to pay a bribe.

Made the ruling: Ntaba

According to her ruling, Konala was detained by police for five months for failing to pay police officers a bribe so that they should set him free from the case in which he was accused of transporting one of the murder suspects in the districts.

The development made Ntaba order the graft-fighting body and the prosecution agency to probe the law enforcing agency and its officer in the interest of justice, an exercise which has not yet started.

But instead of serving the order on ACB, the High Court registry in Zomba filed it until The Nation made a follow-up on the matter yesterday where it was revealed that both accountability institutions did not receive any formal communication on the matter.

High Court registrar Agnes Patemba confirmed in a telephone interview that it was an omission that the court did not serve ACB with an order to act on it as informed in the ruling.

She said: “I think they just gave copies to parties who were available when the judge delivered the ruling. ACB was not served and we will serve them tomorrow

[today]

. I think it was an omission.

“What is supposed to be done is that after the court has made an order, the office of the registrar is supposed to bring to the attention of the registrar that there is a court order which is supposed to be brought to the attention of parties mentioned in the order.

The registrar, who was there at that time, was not aware of that court order and what the court had ordered.”

The development means that the man who was unlawfully imprisoned has not seen justice for 12 months now, a development which Patemba could not confirm, saying that it is just an investigation to be carried out.

Although spokesperson in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Pirirani Masanjala seemed not to know about the matter, he told The Nation in earlier interviews for the story we recently carried that the matter was being handled by State Advocate Chambers in Blantyre.

ACB senior public relations officer Egritta Ndala was surprised to learn that the court made the order requesting the bureau to investigate the matter, but there was no official communication sent to her office.

She questioned: “If the order has been made, it does not mean that automatically we have received it. We did not receive the order. How could we know that the order was made?”

During the time of the arrest, Konala operated a motorbicycle taxi. He was arrested for carrying a passenger who was involved in an alleged murder case recorded in Thyolo in 2017.

According to the court, Konala spent three weeks at Masambanjati Police cell. He was later transferred to Thyolo Prison before being moved to Chichiri Prison and Zomba Maximum Prison after failing to pay the remaining K40 000 bribe.

So far, the victim lodged a claim to the Attorney General, claiming damages of up to K100 million as he says his life is not the same after his five-month detention in prison.

In an earlier interview, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo bemoaned the development, saying the victim is one of many Malawians suffering at the hands of police.

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