Malawi Police say women made false rape accusations against officers


…Court has already awarded K376 million in compensation and costs over the rape allegations

Women at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu trading centres in Lilongwe made false rape accusations against Malawi Police officers, a Malawi Police Service (MPS) investigation report says.

The police produced an investigation report dated February, 2020 in which the claims by 18 women were described as false.

In October 2019, Police raided Msundwe, Mbwatalika and Mpingu trading centres to arrest suspects accused of killing a police officer during anti-government protests. It was alleged that police officers raped women and girls during the operation.

The police last year produced a report titled ‘Investigation report on alleged sexual abuse of women and girls by police officers at M’bwatalika and Mpingu Trading Centres’ which said the police did not find any evidence to substantiate the women’s claims.

The law enforcers claimed that a lawyer, a Member of Parliament and local politicians persuaded the women to create false rape allegation against the police officers in order to get compensation.

“A lot of stories were gathered that the intention of the victims was to make allegations aimed at seeking compensation in future,” claims the report in a summary of one file.

The police report argued that the women avoided government and Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) hospitals which are within reach and chose to go to private hospitals which are far away to get examined. The examination also happened two weeks after the women were allegedly raped.

“The hospitals, where they allege to have been examined, are dishonouring [sic] the medical reports.

“Many incidents are alleged to have occurred at the same time which cannot happen in normal circumstances. This is an indicator that the allegations were maliciously planned and originated by some interested quarters for their own reasons,” reads part of the report.

It also added that considering the situation in Msundwe at the time, police officers could not have carried out such acts.

“According to findings during scene visit of incidents as reported at Mpingu, it has been discovered that the situation was volatile and that the distance between the trading centre where the [police] base was located and the village  houses is very far, such that it could have been difficult for someone to carry out such acts comfortably,” reads the report.

The police report also argued that police officers who were on duty denied the allegations .

“Despite the claim by the alleged victims that they cannot identify the police officers alleged to have perpetrated the incidents all police officers on duty were interviewed and all deny to the allegation.

“With lack of direct and corroborating evidence, the allegations seem to be untrue and false,” it says.

The police report contradicts a December, 2019 report by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) which stated that women and girls were raped at the trading centres.

According to the MHRC report, Police officers ventured as far as 1 kilometre into the villages and many villagers ran away, leaving behind some women.

“Some of the women left behind in the village as others fled or arrived in the villages after the others had fled, in particular, Mpingu and M’bwatalika, were met with police officers who violently beat them, raped and indecently assaulted them,” reads the report.

It adds: “Some of the survivors were raped right in the presence of their children some of whom are able to recount the incident and describe the police officers penis in great detail. Only two survivors claim they can identify their assailants.”

However, the MHRC also found that the women sought medical examination two weeks after the incident but added that reasons for this ranged from the impossibility of obtaining referral letter from the police to the hospital because of the non-availability of police service in the area at that time as well as the trauma the women had suffered and long-distance to the public health centre.

Following the MHRC report, Women Lawyers Association sued the Malawi Police over the rape allegations and secured K121 million compensation for the women. The High Court awarded the Women Lawyers Association K255 million as costs for the litigation.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera has since told the local media that the police are conducting fresh investigations into the rape claims.