* It is worrying that in some instances, chiefs have been involved in encouraging human rights abuses and general crime
* By shielding crime suspects on the pretext of using traditional redress mechanisms
* Lumbadzi Police Station’s 2022 bi-annual report, crime and traffic cases have decreased by 14.6% and 45.4% respectively
By Wanangwa Tembo & Mercy Chirwa, MANA
Chiefs in Kasungu have been asked to lead the fight against all forms of crime, gender based violence and human rights abuses which are reportedly high in the tobacco-growing district.
While, security stakeholders in Lumbadzi, Lilongwe have applauded Lumbadzi Police Station for reducing crime and traffic accidents in its jurisdiction.
Speaking in Kasungu during a training of group village heads drawn from all over the district, National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Trust Officer for Kasungu, Gerald Chirwa said “it is worrying that in some instances, chiefs have been involved in encouraging human rights abuses and general crime by shielding crime suspects on the pretext of using traditional redress mechanisms.
He added that the situation had been like that because of factors such as greed, corruption and ignorance of the criminal justice procedures.
“That is why we organised this training to orient one another. They need to understand that some vices such as rape and defilement are outside the jurisdiction of chiefs.
“By handling such cases, chiefs would be interfering with the administration of justice because those matters are to be handled by the police,” Chirwa said.
The day-long training centred on access to justice, gender-based violence and criminal justice procedures and according Chirwa, most of defilement and rape cases in the communities are committed by close relations of the victims, saying “such being the case, some chiefs opt to handle the matters at village level, refusing to have the issues reported to police”.
“We must all understand the criminal justice procedure so that we safeguard our rights and freedoms and protect those of others. We must not be part of those encouraging crime in the community,” he said.
The training’s lead facilitator, Malifa Kapindira — who is community policing coordinator for Kasungu, said it was worrying that the district was ranked third after Blantyre and Lilongwe in terms of crime prevalence rate last year.
“Kasungu has high cases of rape and defilement and some of these incidents go unreported because some chiefs think they can handle them traditionally which is wrong.
“Equally, gender based violence cases must be reported to police. We have victim support units in almost all police units across the district. This must make it easy for us to report the cases,” Kapindira said.
Kasungu has 17 police units spread across the district’s 34 sub-traditional authorities and traditional authorities and Kapindira asked the chiefs to respect court orders, especially on land dispute resolutions, saying rejecting court orders and resorting to violence is a prosecutable case.
“The justice system has redress mechanisms. If one of us is not satisfied with the order that a court makes, there is room for appeal. As chiefs, we must be exemplary and stop taking the law in our own hands,” she said.
The traditional leaders, while requesting to be given various pieces of literature on laws of the country, complained during the training that the police were slow in responding to calls when crimes have been committed.
However, Kasungu District paralegal officer, Lemekezani Chete appealed to chiefs to reduce reliance on police resources by utilising local community policing structures in the process of reporting criminal cases.
At least 40 group village heads attended the training which was funded by European Union through Chilungamo Programme.
Meanwhile, according to Lumbadzi Police Station’s 2022 bi-annual report, crime and traffic cases have decreased by 14.6% and 45.4% respectively.
Speaking during a station executive committee meeting at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe over the weekend, Officer In-Charge for the station, Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Micklina Medi, attributed the decrease in crime and accidents to good partnership between police and members of the community.
“This coordination has promoted high inflow of tips to us the police. This has led to several arrests of criminals and massive recovery of stolen items,” Medi said, while urging the station executive committee members and other stakeholders to continue being eyes of the police by assisting in fighting crime and reducing road accidents in the area.
Medi also condemned mob justice, attacks on persons with albinism and vandalism of police structures among other ills committed by members of the community.
Group Village Headman Mferamanyazi, who represented Traditional Authority M’bang’ombe, hailed Lumbadzi Police Station for maintaining peace and order and promised to work together with the police to keep all criminals at bay.
Participants were drawn from various government departments, civil society organizations, traditional leaders and the business community.