THE AFTERMATH AFTER KOTANNA CHIDYAONGA TRAGEDY
- Boyfriend Timmy Sues Police for K300 Million for Malicious Imprisonment, Defamation
- Pondering Legal Action Against Pathologist Dr Dzamalala
- Challenging Attorney General Says The Case will be a Thriller
- The Case to Reveal a lot of hidden Truth—AG
BY PIJ REPORTER
Lilongwe entrepreneur and socialite Timothy ‘Timmy’ Ntilosanje, has filed a K300 million civil suit against the Malawi Police Service, through the Attorney General, for false imprisonment, malicious imprisonment, defamation, exemplary/punitive damages, aggravated damages and cost of the action.
In January 2020, police rounded up Timmy and three friends, Diana Bhagwanji, Gilbert Kamaliza and his girlfriend Ekaree Daniela Chiweza, on accusations that they had a role in the death of his girlfriend Kotanna Chidyaonga.
The four spent 34 days at Maula Prison before they were eventually acquitted by the High Court in August 2020.
In his summons to the Attorney General, Timmy’s lawyer Khwima Mchizi says his client was maliciously prosecuted by the Malawi Police Service.
“Initially, the Malawi Police Service, after carrying out their investigations, had concluded that there was no reasonable cause to effect the arrest of the claimant. The Malawi Police Service only effected the arrest of the claimant after getting orders from a superior in the Malawi Police Service to effect the said arrest,” Mchizi claims in the court documents.
The lawyer further claims that Timmy’s arrest and prosecution lacked sufficient reasonable and probable cause since there was no iota of evidence linking him to the death and the Police acted maliciously in that there were no investigations done to effect the arrest and prosecution.
“Our client is a digital marketer, brand strategist and businessman and his image and standing in society has been tarnished because as a marketer, image is everything and our client lost that image when he was viciously prosecuted and spent months in prison for an offence he didn’t do, and he has since been termed a murderer despite being acquitted by the High Court, and it’s because of how the matter was handled by the Police and prosecution which makes everyone think our client is a murderer,” reads a remand letter to the AG.
However, Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda said he is challenging the claim.
“I can confirm that I have received the summons. But I am contesting the claim. There was reasonable and probable cause for arresting the accused persons: two pathologists found that the deceased died of poison. The mere fact of an acquittal does not entitle someone to claim compensation for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution,” he said.
Nyirenda told PIJ that the civil case will be a thriller.
“It will be a trial of the century. It will reveal a lot of hidden truth,” he said.
Mchizi: We will definitely file a case against Dr Dzamalala
In a related development, Mchizi told PIJ that they are contemplating filing another civil suit against pathologist Dr Charles Dzamalala, whose flawed post-mortem prompted the Police to arrest Timmy and friends.
“We are contemplating the next course of legal action, but we will definitely file a case against Dr Dzamalala and MalMed under whose name the report was issued. We are currently monitoring Dr Dzamalala’s appeal against his guilty verdict by the Medical Council of Malawi,” he said.
The story, which was exclusively broken by the Platform for Investigative Journalism in February last year, led the Medical Council of Malawi’s disciplinary committee to take action against Dr Dzamalala.
In his six-page autopsy report, Dr Dzamalala said he found evidence of the toxic substance, temik, in Kottana’s body and concluded that she died of unnatural causes.
“The death…was due to generalised haemolysis following acute poisoning with a pesticide called temik… Based on the circumstances of this death, as per narration above, this acute poisoning is most probably due to a homicidal act rather than suicidal or accidental,” he wrote in his January 13, 2020, report.
However, the Medical Council of Malawi established that the 23-year-old, whose death grabbed as many headlines as it spurned unanswered questions, died as a result of medical negligence after PolyCare Clinic in Lilongwe wrongly administered a lethal dose of vecuronium bromide, instead of anti-venom.
The council eventually found Malawi’s leading pathologist guilty of his questionable post-mortem report following the death of the Lilongwe resident.
Although her friends claimed that Kotanna, aged 22, had stepped on and had been bitten by a snake, in his report, Dr Dzamalala concluded that she had been poisoned
Dr Dzamalala, who had been engaged by the family to conduct a forensic post-mortem to establish the exact cause and mode of death, said he found evidence of the toxic substance, temik, in Kottana’s body and concluded that she died of unnatural causes.
Based solely on Dr Dzamalala’s medical opinion, on January 15, 2020, 12 days after Kotanna’s death, the police arrested Timmy, Bhagwanji, Kamaliza and Chaweza for murder.
This is premised on the fact that Kotanna had been poisoned between 9 pm and 11 pm, during which time she had encountered the four individuals.
“The particulars of the alleged offence are that Timothy Ntilosanje and three others during the night of 3rd January 2020 at Area 3 in the district of Lilongwe, with malice afterthought, caused the death of Kotanna Chidyaonga,” reads the State’s submission to the court.
However, the High court found the four not guilty of murder.
In May last year, the Medical Council of Malawi issued a warning to Dr Dzamalala after finding that his pathology report was inconsistent with standard practice.
“The council discussed the case and determined that the late Kotanna Chidyaonga forensic pathology report is inconsistent with standard practice for performing and issuing forensic pathology reports because the laboratory he used to determine the causation of death as termik did not have reagents to elicit the levels of venom and the levels of anaesthetic drug, vecuronium that maybe the most likely to contribute to the causation of death,” reads the Board’s determination.
The Medical Council said there were professional issues that were found that Dr Dzamalala had to attend to.
“He has to conduct his job as a forensic pathologist with due diligence and following due process. The warning means the council doesn’t want to hear the same issues about him again,” he said.
The Medical Council also found Dr Ruth Chimutu, who administered the lethal vecuronium drug that led to Kotanna death, guilty of medical negligence.
Dr Chimutu and PolyCare Clinic were accused of mistakenly administering the lethal drug vecuronium bromide instead of anti-venom.
The Medical Council slapped the attendant Dr Ruth with a three-month suspension, during which time she underwent remedial orientation in the Accident and Emergency Department at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre.
The Council’s assistant registrar, Richard Ndovie, told PIJ that a team of medical experts assembled by the Medical Council had established that it was the vecuronium bromide that led to Kotanna’s death and not, as was previously reported, poisoning or the snake bite.
“The experts concluded that this [death] was as a result of an error at the hospital,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Poisons, and Medicines Regulatory Authority (PMRA), also slapped PolyCare Clinic pharmacist Rafick Mustaphar, who was on duty on that fateful night, with a six-month suspension for negligence.
In court, Mustaphar testified that he had been asked to secure anti-venom from the pharmacy but, when he checked the fridge where they normally stored such drugs, did not find it. When he inquired from a fellow pharmacy technician, only identified in court documents as Hamil, he was directed to the drug vecuronium bromide in the medicine cabinet. Mustaphar went and looked, found the drug, and gave it to the nurse, who proceeded to administer it.
“He was found negligent in discharging his duties, which led to the dispensing of incorrect medication. His conduct in failing to conduct good dispensing procedures is against the code of ethics that guides the pharmacy profession,” PMRA’s verdict reads.
In an interview, Timmy told PIJ that his legal suit against the Police is not a quest for vengeance.
“It’s not payback. The scales of justice have to balance. They weighed on us, and now it’s their turn,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kamaliza and Chiweza said they have yet to meet their lawyer to decide on the next course of legal action.
“He was occupied. We will meet him this week,” Kamaliza told PIJ.