News / Africa

Malawians Question Reversal of Shoot-to-Kill Policy

Lameck Masina
BLANTYRE — Malawians have been experiencing an increase in armed robberies since President Joyce Banda’s new administration reversed the shoot-to-kill policy for police. Banda and human rights groups said the policy violated the rights of suspects and the legal premise of innocent until proven guilty.

The President of Malawi Joyce Banda arrives at Marlborough House in London, England, June 6, 2012.The President of Malawi Joyce Banda arrives at Marlborough House in London, England, June 6, 2012.
The President of Malawi Joyce Banda arrives at Marlborough House in London, England, June 6, 2012.
The President of Malawi Joyce Banda arrives at Marlborough House in London, England, June 6, 2012.
A few weeks ago President Joyce Banda’s new government revoked the policy that allowed police to shoot-to-kill suspects caught in the commission of a crime.

Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Uladi Mussa said the shoot-to kill policy was unconstitutional. “Our constitution says nobody can be killed unless sentenced by the court in this country. Not that the police should kill somebody in the process of arresting an individual," Mussa said.

Since the change in policy, Blantyre and many parts of the country have been experiencing a spate of armed robberies.

Unidentified armed criminals stole undisclosed millions of dollars in cash from the Malawi Savings Bank in the southern district of Thyolo, Monday morning. This followed another incident in which robbers attacked an Indian businessman in the Limbe area.

Limbe police spokesperson Chifundo Chibwezo says these crimes occurred after a team of armed thugs broke into a number of homes in Machinjiri Township in Blantyre where they took electronics and cash.

Mussa acknowledged a deterioration in security, but assured Malawians that the government will not allow the lawlessness to continue.

“Malawi is not a farm. We will have to abide by the laws we have in this country," Mussa said. "So people should not be scared of anybody. Just report to police or even myself so that we completely crush the crimes committed by the individuals.”

The leader of the opposition Chipani cha Pfuko party, Davis Katsonga, said politicians need to stay out of police business. “These people [police] go through very intensive training. They don’t need a politician to tell them what they need to do," he said.

"I think it’s wrong to pretend that us politicians we know everything, because we don’t," Katsonga added. "Let’s allow the police to do the job as they were trained professionally and make sure that the police are indeed given the tools which they need in fighting crime in this country,”

Some police officers are reported to be demoralized by the change in policy and fear for their safety in responding to crimes. But new Police Inspector General Loti Dzonzi described such fears as baseless.

“Shooting-to-kill does not safeguard the life of the police officer," said Dzonzi. "What police officers should be advocating for is that government should provide them with bulletproof vests and not to allow them to shoot to kill before somebody has been given the opportunity to prove their innocence”.

Political scientist at the Malawi Catholic University, Vincent Kondowe, applauded ending the shoot-to-kill policy but said there must be a balance between issues of security and human rights.

“Coming from the background where the police have abused those powers, probably the president was right [for reversing the policy] but there are certain things which the president was not supposed to say publicly," Kondowe said. "For example administrative [and] procedural issues are not supposed to be said publicly because it creates alarm like the way the police have reacted here.”

The shoot-to-kill policy was first enacted last year under a directive from late president Bingu wa Mutharika during the July 20 anti-government demonstrations. Police shot and killed at least 18 people - sparking international condemnation and cuts in foreign assistance.

Since taking office in April, President Banda has been moving quickly on changing directions to win back much needed foreign aid.

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Comment Sorting
by: Peter Nkosi from: Malawi
July 06, 2012 12:22 AM
Why on earth did VOA have to quote Davis Katsonga? His party is the latest of about 40 parties, has no MPs and indeed is extremely minor. In addition, Katsonga is an ex-convict, having been jailed in the UK for sexual blackmail. Later, when he managed to become a government minister in Malawi, he had to be kept hidden away when a high-powered delegation from the UK visited the country.

Katsonga deserves no space in an article about Malawi which is published for an international readership.

by: Jak Daniels
July 05, 2012 6:17 PM
Those are the aftermaths of following western untried ideologies. It is not long before we will hear those same Capricorns knocking on Joice Banda's door to advise her that they are sending in experts to assist impoverished Malawians on how to do policing duties. Africans require heavy-handedness modus operandi in order to deal and curb bad practices, yes DISO KWA DISO. Manja lende ngati a Joice tonse tiona zosaona. Without being forceful these acts will linger its ugly head for a long time, and mind you 2014 is far away for the country to have a proper Head of State who will be capable of running the country intelligently. Joice Banda is an unfortunate thing that has happened to Malawians; she is in a sense a massive mishap that has taken place in Malawi. We don't have any option other than live with this shit till next general elections coming in 2014. Mabvuto tili nawo, abale anzanga. One can see that these are the works of one and only ELSON BAKILI MULUZI (remote controlling proceedings), apparently he has now recovered after the cat disappeared.

by: innocent manyamba from: mzimba
July 05, 2012 2:17 PM
i would like to conquer with Mr katsonga, that the politicians must leave the professionals do their job ie police officers be left alone and all others too. the president must learn to listen and talk less on public issues as one day she may contradict herself." one mouth for a person to talk and two ears for a person to listen good.

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