Malawi’s former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika goofed on the shoot-to-kill order because the Malawi Police Service (MPS) did not comply as it was unconstitutional, national police spokesperson Davie Chingwalu has disclosed.

In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Chingwalu said the police did not comply with Mutharika’s order because it was not within the law and cautioned that police officers will not comply with any political orders that are not in tandem with the law.

“That order was given on a political podium. It was not a written policy. It contradicted the law. Officers did not take that seriously. We did not adhere to that order. His order was in vain,” said Chingwalu.

He said “any leader who gives orders that are not in tandem with the Constitution will not be taken seriously. The danger with such political orders is that when leadership changes, and an officer killed somebody, that officer is taken to task and he suffers alone .”

Mutharika gave a verbal order to the police to shoot to kill criminals and the order is believed to have reduced crime during the last days of his rule. Crime increased when new administration of Joyce Banda came.

When he assumed office, Inspector General Lot Dzonzi told officers not to shoot to kill and several officers expressed concern that the IG was putting their lives at risk as they could not move around with firearms.

The public reacted angrily to the IG’s stand as crime increased, leaving him with no choice, but to visit police stations to clarify the “misunderstanding”.

“For the past two months, the IG has been visiting police stations telling officers issues of discipline and use of firearms. He told them that he did not say that they should never use firearms, but he emphasised on the use of the firearms according to law. The law empowers us to use firearms. Officers use judgment on use firearms,” said Chingwalu.

Government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu said: “The police are well trained and they know what weapons to use where, when and how. The police have button sticks, guns and other weapons and under given situations, a good police officer will simply look at his arsenal of weapons and remember his lecturer’s words,” said Kunkuyu in an e-mail response.

President Joyce Banda on Tuesday last week said government would not stop the police from using reasonable force in the fight against crime. She said this when commending officer-in-charge of Bvumbwe Sub-police Station who worked with village headman Kadzuwa to arrest two people who murdered a former Inde Bank employee.

An officer in Mulanje recently disclosed that they were helpless when they wanted to recover a stolen vehicle last month.

“We were tipped by our colleagues in Phalombe and we mounted a roadblock at Chambe. When the vehicle was close, the driver slowed down and then sped off so fast. The only way was to shoot at the tyres, but we feared to do so. Who would want to be in jail and have his family suffer?” the officer said.

Human Rights Consultative Committee chairperson Undule Mwakasungula said it is not an issue whether the police adhered or not to the shoot-to-kill order, but the fact is that government has failed to deal with security.

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