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Crimes and Sins

By Ndongolera C. Mwangupili (Malawi)

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Ndongolera C. Mwangupili was born on 31st December, 1977 in Liwonde but comes from Karonga. He has an MA in Theology from Mzuzu University. He also has a BA in Theology from the University of Malawi.

A corroded lock, which was also unlocked, was hanging on the dirty wooden door that was eaten up by termites. The room was rectangular, about three by five metres. In the corner to the right upon entering the room, there was a plastic bag with some maize flour in it. There were cockroaches playing a hide-and-seek game in the bag. A well-folded hand-woven mat was standing in the corner opposite the bag. To the far left, there was a heap of dirty clothes which were well folded and secured with a block of stone on top, protecting what seemed to be the valuable treasures of the owner of the room. A mucky pot and a cooking stick were in the middle of the room.

“He must have left them there in haste,” Detective Victor Nyirenda thought.

The grass-thatched room was webbed and on the mud floor ants were busy building what looked like their ‘railway’. A thirty centimetres window was on top of the wall opposite the door. Despite being a bright day outside, the room was semi-dark. It was obvious the room had been deserted for some days. But it seemed that the owner was in such a hurry that he had even forgotten to take his ‘treasures’ with him.

Detective Victor Nyasulu searched the room, looking for clues. And there in the roof, a glove was hanging, pinned to the grass. It was white with red stripes and dots. It was similar to the one he had found at the crime scene a week ago except that this one was for the right hand, while the one he had found at the crime scene was for the left hand. That meant that the two gloves belonged to one and the same person.


Detective Victor Nyasulu remembered it all. When he had arrived at the crime scene a week ago, a crowd of people had already gathered in the car park close to one popular bar in Chiwavi Township. He went close and stood under a zezrphus macrunata tree with an umbrella shape. Lying on the carpet of grass under the tree was the corpse of a young woman stabbed on the chest. The corpse was dressed in a white blouse and a pink mini-skirt. The blouse had a V shape on the chest, exposing her gorgeous breasts.  It was also bare on the back. The skirt was blood-soiled behind and it was torn in the front. The brute might have raped the victim before killing her. That is what Victor concluded on the crime scene.
“What lay on the ground was once a beauty that beastly men would fight for,” he thought aloud.

Atupele, for that was her name, was a well known sex-worker in Chiwavi Township. She was the young woman who was “selling” like a hot cake in the township. Her name was synonymous to beauty in Chiwavi. There were a number of gossips about her in beer places. For instance, there was this gossip about her which went around the township that drunks sometimes queued outside her room, waiting to receive services from her.

Anyhow, upon studying the corpse Victor realized that the woman might have been stabbed underneath the breasts. The white blouse was blood-stained. Definitely, the knife had broken the diaphragm. A stream of blood ran one or two metres away. And there, about one or two metres away, was a white glove with red stripes and dots. The victim might have struggled from where the glove was to where she was found lying.

Who would be the owner of the glove? Victor pondered. It would be the killer’s or the victim’s. But looking at how bloodstained it was and that the other one was missing, he assumed that it was the killer’s. In addition, since the glove which was found at the crime scene was for the left hand it meant that the killer is left-handed and he might have lost it in the struggles with the victim. Or the glove was for the victim who is right-handed and the killer, after struggles, took the right-hand glove as a trophy and the left-hand glove fell at the crime scene. But how could it fall down from the hand if it was the right hand that was struggling? That pointed to the idea that it might be the criminal who might have owned the gloves and he might indeed be left-handed.

There was more to it than met the eye and, therefore, his detective ‘third’ eye was seeing more in all this. He realized that the glove was certainly the clue for solving the whole crime. He had to find the person with the other glove. He picked up the glove with a stick and put it in a plastic bag for forensic tests.


* * *

The following day, after Atupele’s death, Kisa Kapote was unusually hysterical at his bench at Chiwavi market where he was selling mangoes. He was a young man of medium height, dark in complexion and heavy built. One would mistake him for a weightlifter. But if he was into any sport then it was the piece-works he sometimes did around the township which at times required a lot of energy.

Because of his body structure, Chiwavi people nicknamed him Bapala, a vernacular pronunciation for bumper. Many people thought he was a fearless young man. But on this particular day Bapala was not acting like the shock absorber that many people felt he was.

He reflected on how it was that he found himself in town selling mangoes. He had attempted education, completing secondary education two years ago. Since he did not pass well enough to be selected for university education, he thought of trekking to town to find means of earning a living. But he had found urban life to be very hostile: no job, no food, no shelter and no relations. All those people he had thought to be his relations refused to put up with him. That is how he found himself selling mangoes at Chiwavi market. He could not go back to his village. According to him, life or fate was unjust. It had made some people gratuitously fortunate and others unjustly unfortunate. Anger and hatred grew in him. This anger and hatred was translated into his criminal activities.

As time went by the hostile township life absorbed him. At night he found what he thought to be his part-time job: snatching any money that would be found in the drunks’ pockets on their way home. His conscience was very clear and he was sure that what he was doing was in no way wrong. He was very aware that the law criminalised that. But he thought the law was wrong and not him. That was a way of taking back what fate had denied him, he considered.

Some days after, in his attempt to trace all Chiwavi people who were in bad books with the police, Victor discovered that Bapala was missing at Chiwavi market. He went to Bapala’s house to carry out a search. It was then that he had discovered the glove in his house but Bapala was nowhere to be seen.

Victor was seated in his office.  To his left was a bookshelf full of files. They were files of the unconcluded investigations. To his right there was a lockable metal chest of drawers. He usually put clues he had found at crime scenes in those drawers. That meant that the two gloves, which were clues leading to the murderer of Atupele, were in one of the drawers.

He had a vast table in front of him with pieces of paper and files scattered on it. The in and out trays were both filled to the brim. The disorganized table reflected his own mental disorganization.

The pictures of the Inspector General of the Police and the State President were facing him with a look as if saying, “Big-Brother and Big-Sister are watching you!” A silly thought ran through his boiling head that one day he might also have his picture hanging in the offices of police officers. But how could he achieve the position of the Inspector General if he was failing to solve crimes? He pondered.

In his office, the labyrinth of the whole case baffled him. Clues appeared and disappeared on his mental screen. Atupele. Murder. Glove. Bapala. Disappearance. Glove. These were clues but they were not tying up to solve the murder case.

What is evidence? If A is related to B and B is related to C, does it mean A is related to C? The glove at the murder scene was related to the glove in the house of Bapala; does it mean Bapala is related to the murder of Atupele? If A and B are several times conjoined, does it mean there will always be this conjunction? It had many times happened that when Victor found evidence leading to a suspect, it had always occurred that the suspect was the criminal on the run. Does it mean that Bapala was the man behind the murder of Atupele? These and several other questions disturbed Victor.

As he was still pondering over the case, there was a knock on his office door.

“Come in.”

And there standing at the door was Bapala, whose real name was Kisa.

“I would like to give a statement about the death of Atupele.”

“Sit down and I’ll record your statement,” he said this while taking a recorder. This is the statement Kisa Kapote gave on this material day before Detective Victor Nyasulu.

“I, Kisa Kapote, would like to state that I am responsible for the death of Atupele. I attacked her on the night of her death. I also raped her and stole from her K5000 she had that night. I then stabbed her because she had said she had recognized me… That is why I had to disappear. But I haven’t found any peace in my hiding. I feel I can only have peace in the police cell. Justice for my crime is my peace. All this time I have been deceiving myself by thinking that in my theft and robberies I am taking back what belonged to me. I have been a fool all this time and now I have to pay for my crime. My sins can only be forgiven if I have paid for my crimes. Justice has to prevail for me to be forgiven by my God. Please lead me to my cell. That is the earthly hell I have to go through in order for me to be purified.”

Bapala felt relieved. His conscience now had told him that he was the one who was in the wrong and not the law. He offered himself to be arrested. He knew that he would be locked up in a cell. But he was very sure that his mind was now freer than when he was in the hiding. There he stood, a freeman, waiting for the police to act.

Detective Victor Nyirenda switched off his tape recorder and stood up from his chair.

“Mr. Kisa Kapote, you are under arrest for the murder of Atupele. You have the right to remain silent and what ever you say shall be used as evidence in a court of law.”

After he had taken off Kisa’s belt and shoes, Victor ushered him into a police cell and locked him up. That is when he remembered that Kisa was left-handed and that meant he was the owner of the two groves … Victor felt stupefied.


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