27 February 2018

Malawi: Court Acquits One, Convicts Two in MEC Gensets Theft

Mzuzu — The Mzuzu Chief Resident Magistrate Court Friday acquitted a man, convicted and sentenced two others for theft of 17 electricity generators belonging to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) in February, 2016.

The court acquitted MEC's stores clerk, Brighton Mkandawire on grounds that the court could not find any evidence connecting him to the theft.

Chief Resident Magistrate Grace Gondwe, however, convicted MEC's warehouse clerk Davie Mtumpha and former guard Dickens Kalua to five and three years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL), respectively.

Kalua and others were arrested on February 28, 2016 around 11 pm at MEC warehouse in the city after police officers on night patrol became wary when they saw three vehicles heading to the facility at such an odd hour.

The police officers later rushed to the warehouse and found Kalua and others loading seven gensets into the vehicles and arrested them after failing to give a satisfactory answer as to where the machines were being taken to.

However, the ex-watchman Kalua told police that he was working on instruction from Mtumpha who told him to take the generators to his (Mtumpha) house.

Mtumpha was arrested at his house the same night and later it was discovered that 10 more gensets were missing in the warehouse.

On Friday, Mtumpha who hails from Nkolokosa Village in Traditional Authority (TA) Nchiramwera's area in Thyolo District was convicted of theft by public servant while Kalua from Mwachisoti Village in TA Mwamulowe's area in Rumphi District was found guilty of general theft.

Gondwe parried away a plea of mercy by defense lawyer stating that even though the convicts are first offenders, their offenses deserved stiffer penalty.

"The court is aware that out of the 17 stolen gensets, only seven have been recovered. This means that government, MEC in particular, has suffered a great loss.

"Also, being aware that this crime was premeditated, the court sentences first accused (Mtumpha) to five years imprisonment and second accused (Kalua) to 36 months (3years) imprisonment starting from day of conviction which is 23rd February, 2018," she said.

The theft occurred against the background of inadequate resources at MEC as evidenced by its borrowing of some from Zimbabwe during the previous tripartite elections.

State prosecutor Christopher Katani expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the case.

He, however, registered disappointment over increased lack of patriotism in Malawians whom he said aide criminals instead of engaging police each time they suspect foul play.

"A good example is that of one of the convicts in this case (Kalua); he was contacted by his former boss (Mtumpha) to ferry generators at night.

"If he had been patriotic enough, he would have contacted police right when he discovered they (generators) were already outside a warehouse with no officer in sight," he said.

He further advised Malawians to be careful with people who ask them for help especially at awkward places and time.

"If we can be patriotic, we will be able to prevent many crimes from taking place," he said.

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