By swooping on those implicated in the murder of Robert Chasowa, government is by no means making political arrests. Rather, it is doing the right thing to ensure justice takes its course.
Student Chasowa, whatever his offence, was denied justice. He was butchered without being heard and his cold body dumped in the open at the Polytechnic, a university college where he was pursuing an engineering degree course.
That those implicated in the Chasowa murder case include cronies of the former president Bingu wa Mutharika and businesspersons, tells of a deliberate construct of a killer machine modelled on a warped concept of PP (political, private) partnership.
Since the days of Kamuzu Banda, many businesses have only managed to make it big by association with the party in government. Such businesses do not have to compete on a levelled field with others for government tenders; they are given lucrative contracts and sometimes assisted to get easy bank funding by corrupt regimes.
In turn, they are expected to show unflinching loyalty, and perhaps show appreciation by acts of philanthropy to the party in government and its leadership. Owners of businesses built on such a corrupt PP model are a danger to democracy.
They would do anything, including shedding blood, to thwart people’s attempt at bringing political change. Why? The political status quo forms the bedrock for their prosperity. Chasowa did not stand up to any businessperson. His activism was just another voice among many who protested Mutharika’s dictatorial tendencies.
Only greed could make businesspeople plot with DPP stooges to eliminate such a brilliant young man.
But it is the inclusion of some police officers to the list of suspected culprits that is much more disturbing. How far was the police, as a State law enforcing agent, involved in the macabre and criminal act?
This question becomes even more pertinent when the Chasowa murder is considered in the light of the July 20 2011 killings of 20 Malawians during a demonstration which another commission of inquiry also blamed on the police.
We also know that prior to the killing of Chasowa, former Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito met the student and others at his Area 30 residence, treated the young men to expensive liquor and gave them a lot of money to hire a vehicle and rent a house. Southern Region Commissioner Rodney Jose, who drove the young men to Lilongwe, recounted this to NPL editors at his Chichiri office shortly after the murder of Chasowa and it was published.
The young men promised to dissuade civil society activists from holding another demonstration against the Mutharika leadership on August 17. The police and the Chasowa camp became enemies when the latter demanded hefty payment after the demonstration failed to take place. The police refused to pay and Chasowa and his friend, Black Moses, hit back by increasing the tempo in their newsletter—Youth for Freedom and Democracy: A Weekly Political Update—which was critical of the Mutharika administration.
Could it be that the police officers implicated in the murder of Chasowa may have been carrying orders and not acting on their own? Was the police acting in good faith by rushing to release a statement that attributed the death of Chasowa to suicide and even went to the extent of speculating that “the deceased jumped from the upstairs corridor”? Was it a cover-up?
The conduct of the police in the Chasowa murder is reminiscent of the cover-up that followed the bludgeoning to death of ministers Dick Matenje, Aaron Gadama and Twaibu Sangala, and MP David Chiwanga at Thambani in Mwanza in May 1983.
We were told the four died in a car crash as they were fleeing to Mozambique. They were portrayed as rebels. When the truth emerged more than a decade later, it transpired that the four were actually driven to their death place and killed by the police.
In the transition to multiparty democracy, a lot of money and effort was put in transforming the police force into a police service “with a human face”. Yet, 17 years into the multiparty political dispensation, the same police are still aligning with partisan political interests and carrying out acts that can only be described as criminal.
What went wrong in the process of giving the police a human face? What should be done to make the police service rise above the partisan interest of the president and the party in government? If these fundamental questions are not addressed now, Chasowa will not be the last victim of extrajudicial killings in Malawi.