Nine suspects under police custody pulled off an effortless escape on Thursday night in Mzimba after an alleged ‘drunk’ officer on duty left the police cell wide open.
The incident occurred at Kafukule Police Unit—about 60 kilometres north west of Mzuzu City—where the suspects were being kept while awaiting trial for various crimes committed within the district.
The suspects escaped on the watch of one Sub-Inspector Livala, who was the occurrence book keeper (OB), but allegedly reported for duties while drunk. He has since been arrested.
Both National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera and Northern Region police spokesperson Maurice Chapola confirmed the incident, indicating that a team of investigators has since been deployed in the area to ascertain what exactly happened.
According to Chapola, the nine suspects were apprehended after committing various criminal offences during the past week.
“But as of now we are flat out on the ground to re-arrest the suspects. We are also appealing to the public with information about the escapees that could lead to their re-arrest. We are optimistic they will soon be recaptured,” he said.
According to a crime situation report, dated July 9 2021, which Weekend Nation has seen, Livala reported for duty while drunk and opened the cells around 9pm, where he took one defilement suspect and went with him to his house within the police compound, where he wanted to drink refrigerated water.
“On his way back from home with the said suspect, he found all the said suspects gone. [The] Matter was reported to both the OC [officer-in-charge] and station officer and a search was conducted, but in vain,” reads part of the report.
The incident comes a few months after 10 other suspects, including a primary school teacher arrested for allegedly defiling a Standard 7 learner escaped from a police cell in Nsanje.
According to the report, the Kafukule Police cell escapees include Yohane Chawinga, 34, from Itonya Village and Mwawi Chisi, 28, from Mlenje Village both from Traditional Authority (T/A) Chindi in Mzimba and were answering murder charges.
Mabvuto Mbose, 29, of Kalubimbi Village, T/A Mpherembe and 24-year-old Owen Kaunda from Mafuta Village, T/A Mtwalo in the district were both arrested for defilement.
Others are Lumbani Soko, 28, from Mkonda Soko Village, T/A Chindi, convicted and sentenced to 24 months by Emcisweni First Grade Magistrate’s Court for theft and 25-year-old Edson Nyirenda from Mzungu Makwakwa Village, T/A Mpherembe, arrested for theft of tobacco.
Christopher Kamanga, 30, from Suwali Nyirenda Village, T/A Mtwalo, arrested for theft; Sunday Mwale, 40, from Eniake Village, T/A Mtwalo and Adams Makwakwa, 28, of Mzungu Makwakwa Village, T/A Mpherembe were nabbed for alleged unlawful wounding and theft respectively.
University of Malawi (Unima) security analyst Master Dicks Mfune and his counterpart retired Police Commissioner Alex Chisiano have attributed the incident to laxity within the system of the security organ.
Mfune, a peace and security studies expert at Unima’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Management, said the sad story was a wake-up call to all the country’s security systems.
“In my opinion, there is too much laxity in the way we operationalise security issues in the country. This creates threat to national security,” he said.
On his part, Chisiano described the Nsanje and Kafukule incidents as an indication of deterioration of discipline and supervision in the system.
He blamed the police service for treating its officers with kid-gloves whenever they are involved in misconduct, instead of administering severe penalties.
“Police officers know that once they misbehave they will just be moved from one station to some remote place. That is not deterrent enough,” said Chisiano.
He suggested use of other options that would make security officers appreciate that misconduct or deterioration of discipline endangers national security.