Court acquits ‘absent’ cop

Court acquits ‘absent’ cop

A police officer has been acquitted in a case he was charged with deserting from Malawi Police Service without the intention to return for the past seven years.

Sub-Inspector Gift Mbwenye was arrested in January this year by his colleagues from Ndirande Police Station. He was charged with deserting from police service contrary to Section 51 (1) (d) of the Police Act.

Court records in our possession show that the State argued that Mbwenye, who has worked in the police service since 2004, had no intention of returning to work.

But Mbwenye argued that he was pursuing studies in the seven years he was absent and that he sought authority from the Inspector General of Police on two separate occasions.

Court documents in our possession show that when Mbwenye was stationed at State House in 2014, he sought permission pursue studies in clinical medicine at Malamulo College of Health Sciences in Thyolo District.

Dallas (L) and Mbwenye

They also show that he did not receive feedback from the then Inspector General (IG) of Police instead he went to his immediate supervisor, a Guard Commander at State House, who allowed him to go to school in March 2014.

Unfortunately, Mbwenye claimed in his affidavits that while he fell sick in November 2014 and returned home.

Part of the documents reads: “Due to his ill health at that time, he would be asked to sweep whenever he went to his workplace. He then asked that he be transferred to the Eastern Division [or E-Division as he called it]. His request was granted and, therefore, around 2015, he was transferred to Zomba Police Station under the Investigations Branch.

“While working at Zomba Police Station, Mr Mbwenye’s health improved. He then decided to resuscitate his dream to go back to school. Malamulo College of Health Sciences had no problems with Mr Mbwenye’s return to school.”

At this point, Mbwenye wrote the IG again who this time granted his request to proceed with studies. However, the condition was that he take unpaid leave this time which he did not.

In court, Mbwenye, who was represented by two Malawi Legal Aid Bureau lawyers, explained that after he got the response from the IG, he had a discussion with Zomba Police Station the officer-in-charge who told him to go to school without meeting the IG’s condition.

Mbwenye left for school in 2016, but according to court submissions by the then officer-in-charge of Zomba Police Station, the officer did not return despite attempts to contact him through phone calls and WhatsApp messages.

Witness statements of the officer-in-charge, the case investigator and records in Mbwenye’s personal file showed that he never reported for work since March 2016 until he was arrested by Ndirande Police Station in January this year.

But in his arguments before the court, Mbwenye said regardless that his studies went beyond the prescribed three years, Covid-19 delayed his progress as schools were closed and he repeated a class.

In his ruling, principal resident magistrate Chipofya stated that in spite of Mbwenye’s explanation that Covid-19 and a class repetition disturbed his school calendar, his argument did not explain why his three-year programme ran from 2016 to 2024 when he was arrested.

However, Chipofya stated that the State had not proved its case beyond reasonable doubt that Mbwenye had no intentions to return despite that he was absent from duty.

National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya was, as of yesterday, yet to respond to on the fate of Mbwenye following the court ruling, his lawyer Martin Dallas on Friday said his client still has a job at the police service

The post Court acquits ‘absent’ cop first appeared on Nation Online.

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