: Adds IG Mukhito's quotes, probe into student activist Robert Chasowa's death
BLANTYRE--Arrested. Misozi Charles Chanthunya, a Malawian wanted for the 2010 murder of his girlfriend, Linda Gassa, a Zimbabwean, has been captured in South Africa.
"Yes, I can confirm that Misozi Chanthunya was arrested this morning in Rusternburg, South Africa in the North West Province," Malawi Inspector General of Police (IG) Peter Mukhito told MaraPost Tuesday evening. "He was cohabiting with a Malawian girl."
Mukhito said the Malawi Police Intelligence passed to Interpol Pretoria information which led to the arrest.
"We're making arrangements with our colleagues in South Africa to extradite him so he can face justice here," he said.
In August 2010, Linda Gassa’s body was found buried under a slab at the cottage of her lover, Chanthunya. Twenty-five-year-old Gassa, who was a second-year student at the Malawi College of Accountancy (MCA), was last seen on August 4 of that year in the company of Chanthunya, a married businessman.
Gasa's cousin Jessie Kachale said at the time that the love-birds had gone to the southern lakeshore district of Mangochi to discuss her three-month-old pregnancy which Chanthunya wanted terminated against her will.
Autopsy results established that Gassa didn’t die of natural causes but was “poisoned” and that she “had been pregnant at some point before her death”. Her remains were taken to her home country of Zimbabwe for burial.
The Malawi Police Service (MPS) was roundly criticised for its handling of the investigation and for not arresting Chanthunya who skipped the country after being questioned by police following Gassa’s disappearance.
Chanthunya had told police that he had dropped off his girlfriend, who was on her way to Harare, Zimbabwe, at Blantyre’s main station to catch a bus.
But the deceased’s relatives said Chanthunya had earlier indicated to have bought her an air ticket for the same purpose.
IG Mukhito acknowledged fault in the manner his officers handled the case. And last year - a year after Gassa’s death and Chanthunya disappearance - police said they were still looking for the fugitive.
“No matter how long it takes he will still have murder charges hanging on him,” police publicist Willie Mwaluka was quoted by the Daily Times as saying. “The matter was reported to International Police who are helping us with the search.”
MPS sources told MaraPost on Tuesday that since the incident, police had followed a number of leads which didn’t yield results until last week. There was even a false report which said Chanthunya had been arrested in the Caribbean islands of Cuba.
Chanthunya's arrest on Tuesday should help shore up the image of the MPS which has taken a beating over a number of issues, including excessive use of force during last year's anti-government demonstrations. Nineteen people were killed after police opened fire on unarmed protesters.
Also last year, the handling of the death of a 25-year-old university student activist was a public relations disaster for the police. After Robert Chasowa was found dead on campus, police quickly said he had taken his own life. But an autopsy ruled out suicide as cause of death. And after his death, it was revealed that Chasowa had dealings with senior police officers, including Mukhito.
Suspecting foul play, the public called for an independent investigation and Pres Bingu wa Mutharika set up a commission to inquiry to probe the death of Chasowa who was a publisher of a newsletter that was critical of government.
Meanwhile, sources have told MaraPost that MPS has sought the help of Interpol in the matter of Chasowa.
Interpol will lead the investigation "to help to clear some misconceptions around the matter", an officer familiar with the investigation said.---
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment