When police grope, rape women

This week, we are here in Nsundwe, Lilongwe.  Although we are not alarmists, we can warn for free that here tension is still in the air and at any time, any day some clashes are likely to erupt.  Between whom exactly we cannot tell.   But people, young and old, female and male are very angry. They feel the State has failed to protect them and they are now prepared to defend themselves, their children, sisters, mothers and wives.

We are lodged at Chileka, Lilongwe, as a way of avoiding Nsundwe proper.  We are very careful with our talking and our movements. Unlike our usual selves, we have taken and assumed a low profile.

However, yesterday, Prof Abiti Dr Joyce Befu, and the rest of us decided to venture into a public bar to have a drink.  There, we found three young Nsundwean men huddled around a smart phone watching a video. In the background the music of Galang’ombe Boys was playing. Nobody seemed to care about our presence in the bar.

I mustered courage and called one of them.  He left the group and came to sit near us.

“Zabwino, ma Biggie?” he greeted us, militarily, eyes forward, lips tight, alms almost in salute position.

“Zashapu,” I answered.

“My name is Kaputeni Kamputeni, some just call me KK,” KK said.

“We are the Bottom Up delegation,” Abiti started, “I am Prof Abiti Dr Joyce Befu, the team leader.  He is Nganga Maigwagwa, PSC (RTD), our head of investigations and security; next to him is the Mohashoi and the remaining guy is Alhajj Mufti Jean PhilippeLePoisson, SC (RTD).

“Welcome to Nsundwe. I know the world out there thinks we are bad people and you have come to prove that point,” KK said, forcibly smiling and barely showing his teeth.

“No. We are here to meet the people, chat, enjoy ourselves, savour the Galang’ombe Boys music,” Jean-Philippe said, offering KK a drink.

“We are three, I can’t drink without the group. That is our philosophy here. One is all; all are one,” KK said.

“What does the group drink?” Jean-Philippe asked.

“Fantakoko,” KK answered,” we learned from Aleke Banda that drinking alcohol is not good because it makes one make decisions without reflection.”

“Please call everybody to come here,” I agreed.

“But he was not appreciated until after his death,” KK said.

The barman brought the drinks. As we imbibed, a member of our Nsundwe counterparts asked what we thought about the area. We all kept quiet.

“People say we are a violent, destructive and unsocial police murdering vicious Nyau! Do you believe that?”

We did not answer. Then KK opened his mobile phone and played the video they had been watching. “Look at this”, he challenged, “and tell me what you would do if this woman were your wife, sister or mother.”

“Which woman?” I asked as I got closer to the small screen.

In the video, a woman with a fidgety boy, perhaps her son, on her lap was explaining how police came to her home. How they undressed her, groped her and “did everything they wanted to her as they wished”.

“This boy looks very innocent today. How do you think he will perceive the police when he grows up?  His mother was groped in broad daylight and raped!”

We did not answer.

“When the police invade a village, break house doors, beat up innocent women, harass, harangue, grope and rape women, how do you expect the men to react? Between the police and us, who is the aggressor?” KK asked, tears running down his face.

Still, we did not answer.

“Is rape of one’s wife, sister or mother not the ultimate declaration of war?”  One of KK’s buddies inquired.

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