In April last year, there was a letter that circulated on social media purportedly written by Vice- President Saulos Chilima stating that he had resigned from his position.
The news was quite chilling to Malawians who did not expect Chilima to do that. Of course, it had come at a time there was growing suspicion that the vice-president was not in good terms with the current administration despite being clearly second in command of state affairs.
And when the police took up the matter and swiftly arrested former president Joyce Banda’s sister, Cecilia Kumpukwe, Stella Assani, Ackson Kalaile Banda and Stanley Mkwala, it appeared an ideal act of a security agency that is serious about its job.
Whether the arrests were made to victimise the People’s Party (PP) members is a subject for another day.
However, when we hear that close to a year after their arrests, there was no much movement on the case, we should be justified to question government’s seriousness on the action it had taken.
2017 was a year some arrests deemed to be politically motivated were made. There are also other quarters that believe that an announcement by the police that it had secured a warrant of arrest for Banda was made to score some political points.
To hear that Senior Resident Magistrate Chisomo Msokera has discharged the case because of the State’s delay to prosecute the matter shows lack of seriousness on its part. It may buttress the point raised by some quarters that the four were arrested on political grounds.
In fact, this was not the first time a seemingly politically motivated case has been discharged by the courts.
Last year, a case involving Malawi Congress Party members Jessie Kabwila, Peter Chakhwantha and Ulemu Msungama who were arrested on treason charges was also dismissed by the courts.
In the case of the PP officials, the public was eager to follow how the government was going to convince the court on charges of creating a false document and publishing fake news likely to cause fear or alarm levelled against the four.
Looking at how the social media is used, the case was of public interest and just to have it thrown out is lack of seriousness.
This may even force the four to sue government for unlawful arrests and claim a lot of money as compensation just as Kabwila and her colleagues might do. This is money that has to be forcibly paid by the poor taxpayer because of sheer carelessness by a government that acts before it thinks.
We are therefore calling upon government to be serious when making such arrests.
These should only be effected when enough evidence has been gathered to avoid creating an impression that they were made just to silence people deemed to be opponents of the current administration.
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