“The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them.” – Lois McMaster Bujold.
Being very good at what one does comes with a risk.
The sickness of the best doctor in town is a good example; who will treat them when they need a doctor? Loss of faith of the godliest priest; who will minister to them? Or let’s say the best surgeon needs a complicated operation; who will operate on them?
Closer home, let’s say it’s none of the above, but the best detective of the land gets murdered; who will investigate and catch their killer(s)?
This is precisely the situation late Bob Mtekama is in. What killed him? Is there anyone good enough to investigate his case?
I never met late Mtekama in person. However, through the works of his hands, I felt like I knew him. When it came to solving crimes flummoxing everyone, Mtekama had no equal.
There is a long list of lowlives and hoodlums locked in our prisons or ex-convicts whose vacations at Maula, Chichiri, Zomba, or whichever jail they are, were facilitated by Mtekama.
The perennial challenge we have in Malawi is that once our leaders grab and take a sip from the intoxicating chalice of power, “merit” suddenly means the opposite. To appease their hangers-on, they victimise meritorious individuals on one pretext or another while promoting irredeemable good-for-nothing idiots.
Mtekama was perhaps the number one victim of such lousy leadership. For his diligence, he was rewarded with postings to the bush.
In 2002, I was surprised to read about him in the Irish Examiner. Not that he had busted some notorious crime ring, no. But that he had been reduced to tending to crocodile attack victims along the shores of Lake Malawi.
“Man bites crocodile and escapes”. The Irish Examiner reported on 12 December 2002 that one Mac Bosco Chawinga, 43, was swimming in Lake Malawi in Nkhata Bay when a crocodile grabbed him.
“Both his arms were inside the full-size crocodile’s jaws, and the beast was dragging him into deeper waters when he decided to fight back,” the paper quoted Bob Mtekama, then serving as a senior police officer in the area.
Chawinga persuaded the crocodile to release him by biting its nose, and immediately, the croc changed its dinner plans.
Although badly injured, he swam to the shore where fishermen found him.
Here was Bob Mtekama, a sleuth par excellence, reduced to investigating crocodile attacks when criminals in our cities were celebrating his banishment.
Calling this a misallocation of talent and resources is an understatement, and this is one reason for where we are.
Anyway, a month after his death, media reports told us that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) had started investigating his death. At the time of his death, he was the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Director.
Inspector-General of Police George Kainja, who had re-appointed Mtekama to head the CID, confirmed that Police had instituted investigations following speculation of foul play in the death.
“It is something we are treating as a matter of urgency because Malawians want to know the truth. I may not state the timeframe, but we are already on the ground, and we will make sure we conclude it as soon as possible,” he said.
The as soon as possible has now evolved to fifteen months! As soon as possible? My foot!
“As an organisation, honestly, we are mourning Bob. We gave him some targets, and by now, some of those targets would have been met. But here we are. In this situation, we will make sure that we meet the targets we set to have investigations concluded,” added the IG.
From the look of things, fifteen months on, the gap left by Mtekama is no longer a gap but a chasm.
The twist to the tale vis-à-vis Mtekama’s tragedy is that for some reason, according to family members, the Southern Region Police Office all too conveniently scapegoated Mtekama’s death to Covid-19.
“It is not true that he died of Covid-19. As a family, we cannot buy that. The medical report from [a doctor] indicated that he died of kidney failure and diabetes. There is no indication of Covid-19. So where did Covid-19 come from?” queried Mtekama’s widow.
The family at that time indicated that it would lodge a complaint with the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
A year later, not much has been uncovered, and it’s only in August this year that the State requested the High Court for an inquest into Mtekama’s death.
“I can confirm that the State made an application before the honourable High Court for an inquest order into the death of the former CID Director. We cannot comment any further until the honourable court has addressed its mind on the application,” DPP Steve Kayuni said.
Executive Director of the Malawi Human Rights Commission Habiba Osman said her organisation is also interested in the matter.
“The case came to MHRC, but looking at the evidence coming out and the need to be thorough, we referred the matter to the DPP, who was also requested by the IG to look at the case to avoid overlaps. We are happy that the DPP has taken the case up,” Osman said.
High Court Judge Annabel Mtalimanja has since granted the State the order of inquest into Mtekama’s death. But because the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) fails to clearly come out whether or not it has launched the inquest in Mtekama’s death, there is no guarantee that Mtekama’s family will get closure.
As expected, the deceased’s family is not amused and has asked the government to consider roping in international experts to speed up the process. The family’s concerns are valid.
First, the longer it takes to investigate the matter by conducting a post mortem on the deceased’s exhumed body, the higher the chances of getting inconclusive results.
Secondly, the longer the investigation takes to get underway, the more likely it is that those wanting to defeat the course of justice will succeed.
Thirdly, borrowing from the allegory of the sickness of the best doctor around; the godliest priest’s loss of faith or the best surgeon in town needing surgery; successfully unravelling the riddle of who killed Mtekama is perhaps something that only Mtekama himself could have resolved.
This, however, does not mean that the DPP Steven Kayuni should continue stalling. He must allocate the best investigators available, adequately resource them, and determine who killed Mtekama.
The dead, after all, cannot cry out for justice. It is our duty, as the living, not only to do so for them but to strive to do it to the standards they set, if not better.
Justice for Mtekama, now, now, now!