Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) told the Blantyre Magistrates court on Thursday that it has lined up more than 20 witnesses to testify in the inquest of the death of Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa.
MHRC has instituted the inquest after granted permission by Limbe Dalton Magistrates court earlier this year following the application by Chasowa’s family to investigate on the death of their son.
Chasowa’s family asked for permission to further investigate on the death of Robert who was an engineering student at Polytechnic, a constituent college of University of Malawi after being dissatisfied by another investigation conducted by Malawi police, which stated that Chasowa died a natural death.
MHRC deputy legal director, Chrispine Sibande said that they have lined up more than 20 witnesses to testify in the inquest before the court make its ruling on whether to order the arrest and prosecution of those implicated in Chasowa’s death.
And Magistrate Innocent Nebi who has just taken over the case from Chief Resident Magistrate, Nyakwawa Usiwausiwa, adjourned the case to August 29 in order to study the files before decision on the way forward for the inquest.
However, before adjourning the case, Nebi wondered why there were no parties to the inquest, arguing who was going to cross examine the witnesses.
Nebi also wondered why the State was not made party to the inquest, and further questioned if the inquest was not going to conflict the public inquiry on Chasowa’s death instituted by President Joyce Banda.
But in response, Sibande said despite the fact that the MHRC constitution permits the human rights body to institute the inquest, the State was free to join in upon the recommendation by the court.
Sibande said Section 17 of the Inquest Act does not require the magistrate to follow penal code procedures when handling the inquest, despite that the presiding magistrate could make recommendation to director of public prosecution to arrest and prosecute those implicated by the outcome of the inquest.
“The State can be admitted to the inquest as party and cross examines witnesses if the court decides so. And the inquest is not in anyway going to affect the public inquiry on the death of Chasowa because the two are different.
“The legal consequences between the two are different. The inquest is handled by the court which uses all laws provided by legal requirements as per law in handling the inquest unlike the inquiry which is not. And the inquiry’s verdict depends on political will unlike the inquest, “Sibande told the court.
Adding up Sibande’s arguments, lawyer Lusungu Gondwe of Ralph and Arnolds representing Malawi Law Society (MLS), which is jointly working with MHRC on the inquest, said the purpose of the inquest was to decide the cause of Chasowa’s death according to Section 4 of the Inquest Act.
“Essentially, there is no need for parties to the inquest based on the stipulation of the Act. But we are open to accept parties to the matter, if the court decided so,” Gondwe said.
Magistrate Nebi said he will make decision on the facts presented in court on August 29 this year and decides on the way forward of the inquest.
Meanwhile, the report which MHRC has compiled and is to be submitted to the court on the Chasowa’s death, implicates some top DPP officials, which include its regional governor, Noel Masangwi and its current president, Peter Mutharika.
The report also implicates business guru, Leston Mulli and other police officers. Mutharika is said to have financed a group of thugs which manhandled and killed Chasowa on September 24, 2011, and Masangwi is said to have headed the group of the thugs and oversaw the operation into the killing of the innocent student.
While Mulli is said to have provided vehicles and allow his security guards under KAMU security service to shield the thugs when carrying their operation at Polytechnic campus on the night Chasowa was killed.
The report, which is more detailed, reveals incidents and events prior and after the death of Chasowa.
The report will be submitted to the court when the inquest matter resumes before made public.