President Lazarus Chakwera’s security detail on Saturday night shot a motorist who hit two security barriers at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
The President was at the palace on the night of the incident, but left for Chikoko Bay State Lodge in Mangochi on Sunday afternoon ahead of official engagements scheduled for today and tomorrow.
In a situation report we have seen, Sub Inspector Sambo, a police officer at Sanjika Palace, said the incident occurred at around 9.20pm on Saturday and identified the motorist as Dennis Chikhoza.
He said the suspect was shot in his legs for trespassing on the protected area.
Reads the report: “The victim, who was then driving M/V [motor vehicle registration] DZ 7792 was totally drunk while driving towards Sanjika Palace.
“Officers on the first gate tried to stop him, but he didn’t stop, as such he hit the gate and proceeded to the second gate damaging both barriers in the process. Officers on duty released bullets from a K2C rifle which landed on both legs.”
However, on Sunday, a source at the palace told The Nation that the vehicle stopped after hitting the pavement and that the suspect was shot while in the hands of police. The source feared the officers on duty might have been asleep and were taken unawares.
“One of the officers shot the guy deliberately to make it appear that they were awake and did a commendable job to stop the man,” said the source.
In an interview at the hospital yesterday, Chikhoza said he unintentionally found himself at the presidential palace’s gates after missing the direction to his house in Chilomoni Township.
Looking calm on the hospital bed, the victim, a taxi business operator, said he had no malicious intention.
Said Chikhoza: “If I had malicious plans, I would have some weapons in my car. There was no weapon, not even a razor blade. I only carried about three kilogrammes of beef.
“I don’t know what I was doing. I just realised yesterday [Sunday] that I was shot in both legs and my clothes were in blood.”
The motorist had to drive about 200 metres from the first barrier to the main gate to get into the compound.
When contacted yesterday, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said investigations were underway and that the nation will be updated when concluded.
He said: “This is a security matter and can only be communicated to the public after thorough investigations through the responsible State agencies.”
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said State House was better placed to comment while presidential press secretary Brian Banda declined to comment.
The Sanjika incident comes barely a month after a mentally-challenged person allegedly entered Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe and broke some glass windows.
Commenting on the incidents, security and management specialist Alex Chisiano, a former assistant commissioner of police, said the two cases reflect a security lapse at State House which needs to be addressed.
He said: “It’s a very serious omission which the senior responsible officers should take seriously. There is need to revisit and tighten this. It also shows that discipline has cracked.”
Since Chakwera and the nine political-party Tonse Alliance won the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 fresh presidential election, security lapses were also reported at the Office of the Vice-President at Capital Hill and the residence of Deputy Minister of Defence Jean Sendeza.