By Grace Kapatuka, MANA & Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express
President Lazarus Chakwera has added credence to nationwide calls for the stop to the increase cases of rape and defilement in the country, saying perpetrators will be given stiffer punishments if they continue to victimise young girls and women.
Chakwera said this when he stopped over along Kamuzu Road in Salima on Wednesday, on his way to Lilongwe from Mangochi, saying the government has instituted a task force to look into such cases so that girls and women are protected.
“It is disturbing to learn that children and women are being defiled and raped every day,” he said. “I would like to warn you that government will not tolerate this malpractice.
“Everyone found perpetrating these offences will face the law,” he further warned.
Recently, there have been reports of increased rape and defilement cases across the country, a development that forced some quarters of the society, including the Association of Women in Media (AWOME), women civil rights activists as well as Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara, to march and present a petition to City Councils of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu.
Among others, the women in media are demanding the government to put tougher punishments on perpetrators of sexual violence so that they should be given stiffer sentences up to life imprisonment as prescribed in the Penal Code.
Last week, the High Court sitting in Mzuzu sentenced 37-year-old Thomas Chavula to 58 years imprisonment with hard labour on three counts of defilement — one involving a three-year-old girl.
The sentence for the first count is 24 years; the second is 18 years and the third 16 years and taking cognizance that to allow the three sentences run consecutively would mean serving 58 years, Justice T.R. Ligowe has ordered that they should run concurrently — to serve the highest sentence of 24 years.
Chavula was convicted in the first count in which he defiled his step-daughter between 2016 and 2019 at Ching’ambo in Mzuzu — beginning when she was a nine-year-old.
The step-father used to defiling her in the absence of her mother and her siblings by luring her into his bedroom but she failed to report to her mother because she was being threatened and also feared of breaking her mother’s marriage.
The second count involved a three-year and three months old — a neighbor’s daughter and the third count, Chavula is reported to have defiled a nine-year-old child of his house’s tenant also at Ching’ambo.
On his plea for leniency that he has three children to take care of born in 2003, 2006 and 2009, the magistrate opined that he did not consider the plight of his children in view of the fact that he in the first place had no regard for the children he defiled and that they were much younger.
Quoting the case of Rep v. Asidi and another, Conf. Case No. 955 of 1999 in which Justice Chimasula said: “Imprisonment certainly involves hardship to family and defendants. Courts always hear these pleas — they are matters that defendants must expect if they commit crimes.
“If courts listen to these pleas more often, they will be preoccupied with the plight of the defendant’s relations and ignore the crime the defendant has committed. It is only where there is prospect of serious hardship to family that courts, out of mercy, allow domestic consideration.”