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Intelligence service bill sparks debate

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Opposition lawmakers Thursday ganged up against proposed qualifications for the head of intelligence in the National Intelligence Service (NIS) Bill.

Some Members of Parliament opposed the amendment, which proposes that retired politicians should be appointed to run the institution.

If Parliament passes the bill, the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) will be known as NIS.

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However, Legal Affairs Committee Chairperson, Maxwell Thyolera, said the amendment was coming at a time the government has been using the bureau for political gain.

Thyolera said the committee wants the bureau to become independent.

“Our view is that the bill should ensure that staff members are not allowed to belong to any political party. The objective is to promote independence,” he said.

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Dedza East Member of Parliament, Juliana Lunguzi, concurred with Thyolera.

“I hope we are going to have professionals who are not going to be appointed by the president. The past directors of the NIB were attached to politicians. NIB people we have now are all attached to politics, which is very unfortunate,” she said.

But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, backed the appointment of people who were previously engaged in politics, saying it is qualifications that matter.

“I don’t think it has got anything to do with independence because the qualifications themselves require a person of high integrity, [a person who is] very educated and very experienced. Sometimes, we confuse independence with accountability,” he said.

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