- Uncle claims they have been asked to lie
The late MacDonald Masumbuka’s family in Machinga has accused police of intimidating and threatening them to give false information about their son with albinism’s remaining eight bones, which the family still awaits for burial.
The family told Nation on Sunday last week that it has been looking for the remaining eight bones to bury where the body of their son—who was 22, and was murdered in March last year—was laid to rest, but could not trace the whereabouts of the bones.
He was buried without both hands and legs.
The family claimed that officers at Machinga Police Station had stopped picking their calls because they have been persistent in asking them the whereabouts of the deceased’s eight bones.
But following the story, which appeared last week, the family claimed on Friday that a team of five Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers from Eastern Region Police headquarters in Zomba, led by regional CID in-charge Chrissy Mwale, stormed Duwamaka Village, Traditional Authority Nkoola in Machinga, where the family lives, to inquire why they told the media that police could not trace MacDonald’s bones.
On Friday night, one of MacDonald’s cousins, Dini Magaisa Mdala called to complain that police stormed the village over the family’s complaints on the State’s delay to release the remaining bones.
He claimed that police forced the family to lie that the remaining bones were buried together with the body.
Said Mdala: “We are much traumatised by what is happening to our family, now. We are afraid that we may lose some of the family members, apart from MacDonald, on this issue, considering that Buleya Lule died while he was being forced to testify on a similar matter.”
He added that police said they should have ‘lied’ that the bones were placed in the coffin together with the remains.
“But there were no bones. I was there at the hospital when the body was put in the coffin and during burial, but there were no bones. If the bones were sold, they better tell us or if they are available, they should surrender them to us because we are still waiting for justice,” he added.
But in an interview yesterday, Eastern Region Police headquarters spokesperson Joseph Sauka expressed ignorance that police went to Masambuka family’s village over MacDonald’s remaining bones.
But he confirmed that Mwale heads the CID section in the region. Our efforts to talk to her proved futile as Sauka said she had not permitted him to give us her contact because she did not want to comment on a matter which was in court.
However, while saying he had no information that some officers went to Masambuka’s village again to do investigations, Sauka said the State had completed its investigation on the matter.
Said Sauka: “So far, the State completed its investigation and testified in court and that’s when they [suspects] were found with a case to answer. It’s now the accused persons who are defending themselves. This clearly shows that the State has completed parading its witnesses.”
He could, however, not comment further, saying the case was still in court.
Commenting on the matter yesterday, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) deputy chairperson Gift Trapence described police’s alleged action—to force the family lie—as questionable.
He observed that Malawians have always questioned police conduct in investigating abduction and killing related cases of persons with albinism.
“Malawians have more questions than answers on their
conduct. The same police tortured Mr Buleya and now they are forcing the [Masambuka] family to lie. We demand the police to release the bones to the family,” he said.
HRDC has since pledged to support the family in seeking legal action against the alleged police action.
Last week, senior deputy chief State advocate Steven Kayuni claimed the bones were in the High Court custody as part of evidential value for the State’s case. He said the country’s criminal justice system dictates that processes such as disposal of an exhibited artifact can only be done at the end of trial and on directions of the trial court.
Twenty-one suspects, including a police officer, a physician, a Catholic priest and the deceased’s half-brother were arrested in connection with the boy’s tragic death.
Nine suspects were acquitted, leaving 12, including Mlombodzi Catholic Parish priest Father Thomas Muhosha and 11 others still answering different charges.
But on Thursday, one of the accused persons, Alfred Yohane implicated some top government officials in the abduction, attack and killings of persons with albinism.
On Friday, High Court Judge Zione Ntaba, however, recused herself from the case of Masambuka, citing the defence, especially Legal Aid, has continuously been mentioning Hetherwick Ntaba [her uncle] as a witness to Yohane.