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  • Christine Chumbler
    Dec 8, 2000
      Daring Daylight Robbery Shocks Asians In
      Malawi

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 7, 2000

      Blantyre

      The Asian business community in the commercial city of Blantyre
      is in shock following a daring day- light heist on one of their
      members at lunch-hour Thursday, reportedly executed by a shop
      assistant at an Asian business.

      Businessman, Farida Malida, who owns a retail business in down
      town Blantyre, told PANA while visibly still in shock, he was
      preparing to close down for lunch when lights went off.

      A lone assistant in the shop went out to fetch some water and
      came back twiddling a rope.

      "He was acting funny so I casually asked him what he was doing
      with the rope but before answering he jumped on me and tried to
      strangle me with the rope," he said.

      Malida said he struggled with the shop assistant whom he
      suspected wanted to strangle him to death. He somehow kicked a
      TV set on display to attract attention but the person who came into
      the shop turned out to be an accomplice of the shop assistant.

      While the shop assistant was still struggling with his boss, his
      accomplice, a vendor selling an assortment of wares outside the
      shop, forced open a cash chest and dashed out with all the
      morning's sales proceeds - estimated at just over 15,000 Malawi
      kwacha (about 193 US dollars).

      When the shop assistant saw his accomplice had made away with
      the loot he let loose his now-breathless boss and dashed out.

      The operation lasted exactly 10 minutes but Malida said it
      appeared like a life-time to him.

      "I have been with this boy for over a year now but I never
      suspected he would one day rob me," he said.

      He showed PANA correspondent three bloody dents around his
      neck where the twine rope had scraped.

      During the struggle the shop assistant had also beaten one of
      Malida's fingers which was still dripping with blood.

      A southern region police spokesman said a team of investigators
      went to search the shop assistant's house in one of Blantyre's
      high density areas but found he had bolted.

      He suspected that the shop assistant had moved to another house
      after knowing his residence was well known.

      Thursday's incident highlighted the love-hate relationship Asian
      merchants have with their workers.

      Asian shop workers have always complained that they work long
      hours for little pay.

      Several strikes had not helped to solve the situation.

      A shop assistant near Malida's shop said he was not surprised his
      colleague had resorted to robbing his boss.

      "These people mistreat us," he said. "My friend was simply trying
      to make ends meet."

      Another Asian shop owner said incidents of theft by servants are
      on the rise.

      He said whenever a shop assistant wants to leave his job he
      always steals.

      He, however, said violent incidents similar to Thursday's robbery
      were very rare.

      *****

      Clamp Down Has Little Effect On Male
      Prostitution

      African Eye News Service (South
      Africa)
      December 8, 2000

      Brian Ligomeka
      BLANTYRE (Malawi)

      A Presidential directive ordering the arrest of male prostitutes has
      had little effect in Malawi. President Bakili Muluzi issued the
      directive in August for both male and female prostitutes to be
      nabbed in a bid to curb the spread of HIV/Aids.

      But police spokesman Oliver Soko, says that although "hundreds"
      of women had been arrested since August, not a single man has
      been brought to book.

      He couldn't explain the discrepancy, which has long outraged
      human rights activists in the country. They say its unfair for women
      to be singled out in what is the oldest form of trade in the world.

      Some of the charges female prostitutes face, include living on the
      earnings of prostitution, as well as rogue and vagabond charges.

      But Soko says the Penal Code allows for the arrest of men too. It
      states: "No male persons in any public place can persistently
      solicit or importune for immoral purposes."

      *****

      Blantyre Gets New Mayor After Six Years

      Panafrican News Agency
      December 8, 2000

      Blantyre, Malawi

      Malawi entrepreneur, John Chikakwiya, has been chosen as
      Mayor of the country's commercial capital, Blantyre, after six
      years.

      In a largely one-sided election, Anna Kachikho, a Human
      Resources Manager with Malawi's State-run Agriculture Marketing
      Board, was also returned as Deputy Mayoress.

      "I can't promise anything just yet, give me a chance so that I can
      learn first," an elated Chikakwiya said at a post- election press
      briefing.

      But his Deputy Kachikho told journalists her major task will be to
      improve the city's problematic tax collection.

      "I will work to achieve a lot of good things and my first priority will
      be to improve the road network and sanitation," she said.

      Both Councillors from the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF),
      were unopposed in the poll, which followed the 21 November
      nation-wide local government elections characterised by voter
      apathy.

      According to the Electoral Commission, only 14 percent of the
      over five million registered voters cast their ballots in the municipal
      poll, in which the ruling UDF scored a landslide.

      *****

      Human Rights Activists Criticised By Crime
      Victims

      African Eye News Service (South
      Africa)
      December 8, 2000

      BY Brian Ligomeka, Hobbs Gama &
      Justin Arenstein
      BLANTYRE (Malawi)

      Human rights activists in Malawi are under fire from an unexpected
      quarter -- the very people they are trying to protect.

      An increasingly critical media and general public have blamed
      human rights activists for the country's soaring violent crime after
      a series of highly successful programmes to curb illegal arrests
      and police brutality.

      Critics contend however that human rights organisations are
      hampering the police fight against sophisticated crime gangs and
      are according criminals better rights than their victims.

      The Malawi Centre for Advice and Education (CARE), one of
      Malawi's most prominent human rights organisations, tried to
      refute the criticism in an unprecedented statement this week
      defending its programmes to provide para-legal assistance to
      prisoners.

      CARE spokesman Shernard Mazengera said in the statement that
      human rights activists were increasingly being used as scape
      goats for government's inability to tackle or control crime.

      "More and more people are questioning our pledge to ensure that
      everyone's rights are protected. Malawi is a society that has little
      real understanding of universal human rights and most people
      believe that criminals should have no rights at all," said
      Mazengera.

      "Our mission is to ensure that all suspects are treated as innocent
      until proven guilty in court, and that all prisoners are granted basic
      rights protecting them from beatings, sexual and other abuse."

      Malawi national police spokesman Oliver Soko stressed the
      importance of CARE and other human rights work, but confirmed
      growing opposition amongst policemen to what they viewed as
      "meddling".

      "The police and courts are increasingly releasing even dangerous
      criminals on bail because of the pressure from these organisations
      to recognise human rights. Often suspects are released because
      officers are afraid of being labelled brutal or human rights
      abusers," said Soko.

      "The public backlash has included mob lynchings, protests against
      police and a growing public belief in mob justice or jungle courts."

      Police and human rights activists have also, he said, been
      accused of accepting bribes from criminals in return for early
      release.

      "Public dissatisfaction has become so severe that suspects
      released on bail now face a growing threat - summary execution
      by angry mobs," Soko added.

      A recent spate of mob killings prompted the Malawi government to
      tighten its bail procedures in criminal or violent crime cases and
      warn that it would charge anyone implicated in mob stonings,
      burnings or assaults.

      "Malawi lived under a brutal system of State repression by the
      former dictatorial regime for decades and normal citizens therefore
      have very little genuine understanding of the concepts of a fair
      trial or institutional justice," said Mazengera.

      "This is the reality, but it cannot be used as an excuse for giving
      up. We have to fight popular sentiment if necessary to ensure that
      Malawi develops the kind of human rights culture that will entrench
      our democratic system."

      CARE's core programmes attempt to entrench the concept that all
      suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty, should be
      informed of all charges against them, be allowed legal defence or
      advise, and be granted a speedy and public trial.

      Convicted criminals should, CARE contends, be allowed to appeal
      their sentence, be granted the chance to rehabilitate themselves
      and qualify for parole, and be treated humanely while in jail.

      "Only once these safeguards are in place can we be sure that
      people will not be wrongly imprisoned and that prisoners are not
      mistreated," said Mazengera.

      Southern African police and human rights lawyers meanwhile met
      in Malawi two weeks ago to draft the region's first international
      code-of-conduct for law enforcers.

      The three-day Southern Africa Police Chiefs Corporation
      Organisation (SARPCCO) conference in Malawi's Mangochi region
      began drafting ethical guidelines to stop the use of undue physical
      force, assault, torture and corruption within the region's national
      law enforcement agencies.

      The guideline will, it is hoped, finally be adopted as a Southern
      African Development Community protocol to standardise policing
      standards on the sub- continent.

      The conference will also attempt to streamline regional extradition
      laws and procedures, and create a regional database of known
      criminals or syndicates to help police track their movements.

      Malawi currently chairs SARPCCO, which was established
      five-years ago to co- ordinate cross-border police investigations
      and help police track international drug, weapons, contraband and
      vehicle smuggling syndicates.

      Malawi police legal advisor and country delegate on SARPCCO,
      Tumalisye Ndovi, said the proposed guidelines would attempt to
      instil better professional standards and a deeper understanding of
      human rights amongst regional police officers.

      "We are all carrying out vigorous campaigns to teach our officers
      why human rights are important and how to handle suspects
      properly," said Ndovi.

      The review of regional extradition procedures may be incorporated
      into a generalised regional extradition treaty, signed by all SADC
      members.

      The conference follows huge public outrage in South Africa,
      Mozambique, Swaziland and Malawi about perceived police abuse
      or torture of suspects.

      South African police are still attempting to patch their public image
      after leaked video footage showed rogue officers setting their
      attack dogs on three hapless suspected illegal immigrants as
      "training". The suspects were repeatedly savaged by dogs, and
      beaten by their handlers, before being released without charge.

      Mozambican police are fighting a Mozambican Human Rights
      League report alleging that they sparked nationwide riots that left
      41 dead and 200 injured last week. The police allegedly fired on
      opposition party supporters without provocation, killing 11.

      They also allegedly pursued and shot at least one more fleeing
      demonstrator, and tortured many of those arrested during the
      aftermath.

      Swaziland police were condemned by international human rights
      bodies this week for harassing, manhandling and deporting
      foreign journalists, beating pro- democracy supporters and jailing
      union leaders.

      Malawi police heave meanwhile been grilled for a spate of torture
      and assault cases, as well as for the illegal possession and use of
      unregistered firearms. The weapons were allegedly used to kill
      unco-operative suspects, when attempts to torture confessions
      from them failed.
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