Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Teenage girl imprisoned, No reformatory centre

A 16 year-old habitual thief (name with-held) who happens to be the daughter of two police officers has been placed under the custody of Chichiri Prison female wing by the Blantyre Child Justice Court.

Currently there is no reformatory centre for girls and maximum punishment for theft if the offender is an adult is five years.

According to the same documents, the girl’s mother is a police officer at Soche Police who divorced from her father, also a police officer in Zomba in 2001.

The teenager was caught stealing items like money, handbags and phones from pupils and teachers in all schools attended and from religious figures in churches. She claimed the money was used to buy things like chips although her mother provides everything for her.

Section 16 of the Children and Young Persons Act allows the court to detain an unruly offender in prison if they cannot detained in a place of detention.

Magistrate Esmie Tembenu in a ruling also ordered the Social Welfare Department under the ministry responsible for children to be visiting and counselling her in prison.

She said the girl should be kept there until the Board of Visitors decides otherwise.

Tembenu said although the Probation Officer recommended the girl be put on probation for 30 months, she had to “find a place where she will be staying while on that probation and at the same time consider how the chain of victims whose properties have been stolen by the girl is going to feel.”

The teenage girl stole K4000 tithe from two churches, K2000 from a mosque, and cash ranging between K700 and K4000 from teachers in about five primary schools. She was once arrested and locked up in a cell at Soche police.

“When she appeared before court in a victim-offender mediation conference, all the items were recovered except for the cash. The owners of the stolen properties forgave the girl; hence she was immediately diverted to Chisomo Childrens Club for both moral and psycho-social counselling.

“She was also put on compulsory education. At the same time the sister of Bishop Kambalazaza told the court that they were praying for her at her church where she stole tithe,” reads part of the court document.

The girl also stayed at Chisomo Children’s Club for a month and was once beaten at a police station and following interventions was granted unconditional bail pending final order only to steal again from Shoprite and Pep Stores on December 31, 2009.

She has twice been remanded at Chichiri Prison female wing and pastors thinking she is possessed by evil spirits have failed to change her behaviour. Her mother had apparently barred the father from accessing his daughter.

“The court is disappointed that the parents of this girl child are looking at their daughter as part of their marital dispute, forgetting that as parents, both are owners of the child and as such they have a collective responsibility to make sure that they are raising their daughter in a comfortable environment as per section 23[3] of the constitution which provides that all children have the right to know and be raised by their parents.

“If we look at Ephesians 6: 1 -3; Deuteronomy 11: 18-19 and Colossians 3: 21 we will see that God requires children to obey their parents. God expects parents to instruct and correct their children together as father and mother. Parents whether divorced or not need to spend time with their children, caring for their spiritual and emotional needs,” said Magistrate Tembenu.

She added, “this girl child, who I may call a victim-offender, is suffering innocently because her parents have been serving their marital interests ignoring the interests and rights of their child.

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Took this picture of children in Milange, Mozambique admiring visiting Malawian children

Tracing footsteps to lead me home

Greetings from the Warm Heart Africa, Malawi.

I'm a Malawian journalist who grew up in many countries including South Africa, Belgium, then West Germany, UK, Washington DC and New York in the US and I love New York.

Trying to come up with the production of my life and by compiling some of my 1000 poems into a book called ‘Tracing Footsteps’ to lead me Home with excellent photography.

I also plan to film award winning documentaries based on the history of this ancient land called Malawi and the mysteries of the Sirius star. this space.