Concerned friends for Kottana Chidyaonga’s murder suspects petition for their release from custody

By Duncan Mlanjira

A group of concerned friends for the four suspects on the mysterious and alleged murder of 23-year-old Kottana Chidyaonga, have organised a petition for the public to support asking the authorities to consider granting them bail.

The suspects, Timothy Mtilonsanje (28), Gilbert Kamaliza (29), Diana Baghwanji (23) and Ekari Chaweza are still in custody and being denied bail, as according to the petition that’s posted on

Late Kottana Chidyaonga

As of Monday morning, 1,057 people had signed in support of the petition.

“This about why the murder case of late Kottana Chidyaonga is being denied access to essential records and why some people are bullying their motives at the expense of people’s lives,” says the petition.

“This is about objective reason. This is about equality. This about standing up for 4 youths who have been treated unfairly and holding defense to the malicious offensive that their lives have been subjected to.”

This can be you, your brother, your sister or your friend. This can be you in Malawi, this can be you in Africa.

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“Let us stop this malicious bullying and entitlement to favoured justice. Let us promote objectivity, fairness, justice and truth,” says the petition which is being advanced by concerned group’s leader, Mpambira Kambewa.

According to reports that started circulating on January 4, it is alleged that whilst at a Timothy’s house, Kottana had taken off her shoes and left them outside but as they left, she put on her shoes not realizing that a snake was hiding inside one of them and she got bitten.

A type of snake bite

It is reported that Kottana knocked off from her workplace in City Centre at around 9pm on Friday, January 3 was picked by one of her friends, Diana Bhagwanji to her place at Area 11 where they are reported to have spent some time there before relocating to the home of Kottana’s boyfriend Timmothy at Area 3 at around 11pm.

It is further reported that the three agreed to go to a pub in town for a Friday night outing but as they walked out of the house, late Kottana is alleged to have been bitten by the snake.

It is reported that she started experiencing light-headiness as they left the house compound and her two friends rushed her to Polyclinic within Area 3 Township.

But she began having convulsions that prompted the clinician on duty to refer them to Kamuzu’s Central Hospital (KCH) and it is believed she died on her way there because efforts to resuscitate her at KCH failed.

The attending clinician at KCH is reported to have become suspicious with the death, as she could not convince herself that there was a snakebite wound on late Kottana’s foot and she asked Timmothy and Diana to bring the snake, which had reportedly been killed, to the hospital in the night.

The snake was indeed brought to the hospital and a cursory search on the body of late Kottana for a related snakebite wound was still unsuccessful.

Being a mysterious and suspicious death, the matter was then reported to the Lilongwe Police Station by her family who, together with the police requested for a forensic postmortem examination to establish exact cause and mode of death.

However, a forensic autopsy done by expert Dr. Charles Dzamalala has concluded that Kottana did not die after being bitten by a snake but rather from acute poisoning after consuming Termik.

In his assessment, Dzamalala says based on the circumstances surrounding this death, this incidence of acute poisoning is most probably due to a homicidal act rather than suicidal or accident act.

“This death was from unnatural. It was due to generalized haemolysis following acute poisoning with a pesticide called Termik, an organophosphate compound that is found in many hardware/flea market shops in the country,” said Dzamalala in his report.

hemolysis means destruction of red blood cells

“The story of the snakebite lacks scientific evidence and it is therefore best ignored, as a typical snakebite wound is visibly fresh, leads to swelling from a quarter of an hour after the bite and takes specific shapes (arc for non-venomous bites and linear or otherwise by venomous bites).

“The alleged snakebite wound on the body of late Kottana Maria Chidyaonga lacked all these classical supporting features on the skin and surface both grossly and microscopically,” writes Dzamalala in his comment/opinion.

However, in an affidavit filed at the High Court, Associate Professor of Pathology, Dr. Steve Kamiza challenged the forensic autopsy done by expert Dr. Dzamalala that Kottana died from acute poisoning after consuming Termik.

Dr. Kamiza, who is a Fellow of Pathologists from University of Michigan in the USA and University of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, filed the affidavit at the High Court as defence for the suspects.

In his opinion, Dr. Kamiza said he does not believe Kottana was poisoned by Termik because “Termik presents classically with severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and urinary incontinence as the early symptoms of drug absorption into the system”.

“…From my objective reading the said post-mortem report I did not see any conclusive evidence suggesting a case of homicide let alone implicating Diana Bhagwanji [because the report] did not provide medically valid reasons to rule out snake bite poisoning as cause of death.

“The said report purports Termik as a cause of death when the deceased did not show any known clinical symptoms of organophosphate poisoning before her demise.

“I have noted that Dr. Dzamalala’s post-mortem report lists cause of death as Hemolysis secondary to acute poisoning by Termik without clearly demonstrating how Hemolysis can cause the death of a person.

“…In simple language hemolysis means destruction of red blood cells [and] that hemolysis can be cause by hemotoxic snake venom.

“In addition, this venom can also cause petechiae hemorrhages. The two are listed as the major findings in the report.

“”…It is not documented whether the purported bite wound did not have snake fangs buried deep inside. Neither does it say whether the brought in snake had its fangs on/intact to rule out snake bite,” said Kamiza.