By Sylvester Kumwenda-Mana
Allegations have surfaced of sexual abuse and inhumane treatment against a staff member of Panda Supermarket and Bakery of Pakistan origin operating in Lilongwe, towards some Malawians which include allegations of rape of a 12 year old girl.
The issue came to light when Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare, Patricia Kaliati on Tuesday late afternoon hours, paid a surprise visit to the premises, situated at area 47 Chitukuko in Lilongwe in a follow up to various complaints that reached her office against one of the people running the family business.
The allegations include sexual harassment, physical assault, inhumane treatment of Malawians, and a sexual violation of a 12 year old girl and a K1 million payment to suppress the matter.
However, when Kaliati stormed the shop, she was told by the man in charge of the shop (also of Pakistan origin), that the man purportedly behind these abuses had allegedly left the country for Pakistan.
“Every day we are getting reports that a number of people are being harassed here and sexually abused, including street children who are facing various abuses,” she told journalists.
“We have heard that he would urinate in empty energy drink bottles and throw these outside for the street kids to be taking them as if it is juice; yet it is urine. We have people who have been invited into this shop and suffered sexual harassment including a vulnerable girl from Mtandire (name withheld).
“A certain case was taken to Lilongwe police where K1 million was given to end the case. So we are tired of getting these reports of these abuses,” said the seemingly furious Kaliati.
Kaliati however, said this is just the beginning of the investigations to find out the whole truth behind all these serious allegations, and whether the man has really left the country or is being shielded.
She has since said her office through the Director of Social Welfare, Child Care Protection will engage the police and all other relevant authorities in a quest to bring all offenders to book.
“We have also challenged the person running this shop to know the kind of people he is employing following what is happening, otherwise we might close the shop because we do not want people to be harassed or sexually abused here,” she warned.
Kaliati also warned of following up on allegations of a staff member at Labour offices who suppresses complaints after receiving money.
The minister added saying government intends to make sure children are kept out of the streets to protect them from abuses, introduce needy kids on cash transfer and empower them with vocational skills.
Efforts to talk to the shop manager proved futile as he denied granting an interview.
However, Mana caught up with one of the whistle blowers identified as Master Chiyembekezo, who agreed to go on record to provide further details of the allegations.
He alleged the name of the man in question to be Tybu Raza, while the manager Kaliati had talked to at the shop was Kashif Raza. He alleged these to be brothers running the family business.
Chiyembekezo detailed a chilling account as to what has been happening behind the closets of the shop and how he signed for a K1 million payment to keep an alleged rape case out of court.
“He (Tybu) would, after taking Dragon energy drinks, urinate in the empty cans and pretend it was a normal drink and give it to guards to drink it. Sometimes they would deliberately put those in trash bins, which street kids would pick and drink, thinking it was an energy drink,” alleges Chiyembekezo.
“I know of these things, I was working there as a company manager and I just recently resigned.”
The ex-worker also alleges of a young man (name withheld), a tyre fitter operating nearby who was also sexually assaulted.
He claims the younger brother at one time asked the victim to clean the toilet, and while there, started making sexual acts on the victim, removing the victims trousers promising him K50,000 for sex.
However, one of the damaging claims was the defilement of a 12 year old girl by the younger brother.
“He raped a 12 year old girl, the issue was reported to the regional police at area 3, but since they have money, they paid K1 million to the relatives for the issue not to be taken to court.
“I was there when the money was being paid. They refused to sign for the K1 million but I, as a company manager then, acted as a company representative and I was asked to sign payment for the money which I did. This effectively ended the case, but I was not comfortable with that,” he says.
He also claims of a case of a woman was also impregnated, beaten and subsequently lost both the pregnancy and her uterus.
“My resignation came after suffering abuses too. When this Taybu would be angry, he would shout at me, insulting me telling me to go and have sex with my mother, saying my sister smells badly.
“I started way back tendering in my resignation letter but they refused to accept it saying they could not afford to lose a good person like me. But it was too much to bear and I finally resigned,” he says.
Chiyembekezo said he is making the revelations to make sure justice takes its course, saying people are suffering in silence because of poverty.
He said he reported the issue to the ministry officials hoping proper investigations would be done.
“When some of these things were previously reported, money would exchange hands to end these cases. But this time around I believe the people handling this case now cannot be bribed and justice will flow,” says Chiyembekezo.