Information emerging from an investigation by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) suggests that Polytechnic student activist Robert Chasowa was killed just hours away from meeting a civil rights leader with whom he had agreed disclosure of a government sponsored criminal mission.
According to information contained in a preliminary report dated May 25, 2012 reference no.: HRC/05/03/02/BT, which has been sent to the new Commission of Inquiry into the death of the student, Chasowa was slated to meet Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) Executive Director Rafiq Hajat on Sunday 25th September 2011 to reveal identities of people who torched IPIoffices on September 2.
Chasowa was found dead on September 24 after speaking to Hajat on phone the previous day.
Before he was used by high-ranking government officials to play a part in foiling August 17, 2011 demonstrations, according to the report, Chasowa and his colleagues Duncan Phiri and Phaniso Mhone met and warned Hajat at his offices that he was on a DPP-government hit list because of the demonstrations that he was involved in organizing at the time.
In his narration to the MHRC investigators, Hajat confirms meeting Chasowa on 15 August 2011.
“RC (Robert Chasowa) and Alex Black Moses introduced themselves as the Vice-President and President of a youth grouping calling itself Youth for Freedom and Democracy or ‘YFD’.
“They then told Hajat that they were part of a taskforce established and supported by the then Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito and whose objective was to foil the upcoming 17 August civil society demonstrations. RC and Moses then told Hajat that they had a secret hit-list of persons that the then government/ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had targeted for intimidation and attack including Hajat himself,” reads the MHRC report.
The MHRC report contains information that incriminates the Malawi Police Service to the effect that Chasowa, Duncan Phiri and Phaniso Mhone were given monetary inducement by the then Inspector General Peter Mukhito for the trio to stop the organization of the 17th August anti-government demonstrations.
The report also names Mukhito as having been one active player in the events that involved Chasowa days before he died. Mukhito has, however, not been interviewed in the report.
But one Duncan Naoza Phiri, President of New Vision Youth Organization (NVYO) told MHRC that he, Chasowa, one Phaniso Mhone and himself met IG Mukhito at his Area 30 residence on 7th August 2011 and discussed partnership on quelling civil society demonstrations after the 20 July demos.
During national demonstrations organized by civil society on July 20, 19 people were shot dead.
“The group was given K50, 000 cash each by Mukhito during the meeting of 7 August 2011 as a start –up for operations of the group and was assured a further K500, 000 for its operations.
The group was promised K10 million if it would be successful in foiling civil society demonstrations,” the report states.
The report further quotes Mhone as collaborating with Naoza Phiri who adds that IG Mukhito also gave them K50, 000 cash for their colleague Justice Kangulu who was unable to attend the meeting.
On the ownership of the vehicle that the trio had been using at the time, MHRC interviewed the proprietor of Country Car Hire Mike Mlombwa who admits in the report that the Suzuki Jimmy registration number MN2452 which was reportedly given to the three by Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose belonged to the company and had been hired by the Malawi Police Service in the previous days.
Besides the vehicle, the report says Police Commissioner Jose also reportedly gave the young men cash amounting to K300,000 to assist their group with their operations including setting up offices.
It is also mentioned in the report that the lead pathologist who conducted on the body of Chasowa found it strange that more than two police officers had been assigned to witness the process and that, while Chasowa’s body was found early morning September 24, two senior police officers stationed at Area 30 Police Headquarters in Lilongwe had made it to Blantyre for the activity.
“The five Police officers had arrived at the College of Medicine mortuary in the morning of Saturday 24 September 2011. Pathologist Dzamalala was surprised by their seniority and number. According to Dzamalala, there is usually one or at most two police officers during a postmortem examination.” reads the report.