Police Tuesday invaded the house of former president Joyce Banda’s sister Cecilia Kumpukwe, in Blantyre, and arrested her over allegations that she is among those that authored a letter purpoting the resignation of Vice President, Saulos Chilima.
The police then took Kumpukwe on a four-hour journey to Lilongwe for questioning, a move that has attracted condemnation from human rights activists.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera refused to comment and referred The Daily Times to his deputy Thomeck Nyaude who expressed ignorance, saying he also learnt of the news from this reporter.
“I don’t know anything about that issue. I am hearing it from you,” Nyaude said.
But People’s Party Administrative Secretary, Joseph Chikwemba, confirmed the development, saying Kumpukwe was arrested yesterday at around 9am at her residence in Chigumula.
“She has been arrested this morning. As we speak, they are arriving in Lilongwe. I am told there are a number of people being targeted over the alleged fake letter of the Vice President and I am one of those on the wanted list of the police over the issue. I can’t give you the names of the other people because that is private information. But all we know is they are targeting a lot of people,” he said.
Chikwemba also confirmed the arrest of Stella Assani who was picked on Saturday in Blantyre in connection with the same charges even though the Police Press Office continues to deny this.
“Assani was arrested and she has spent about four days in custody. She was arrested here in Blantyre and taken to Lilongwe and it is on the same allegations that she was part of those that authored the letter,” he said.
Chikwemba further faulted the police for what he said is wastage of government resources over issues that may yield nothing at the end of the day.
“It is very unfortunate that the government is up and about making these arrests. Honestly, this government is acting childishly. You may recall the issue of Jessie Kabwila, Peter Chakwantha and Ulemu Msungama, the government was vocal about it but later the High Court dismissed the issue,” he said.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya has condemned the government, describing the arrests as barbaric and has called on government to immediately release the two women.
“This government is using intimidation. These arrests are obviously aimed to instill fear in government critics. We are very alarmed with the arrangement of ferrying suspects from Blantyre to Lilongwe; we know very well that every police has the ability to interrogate people. The government must really stop this behaviour,” he said.
Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi cautioned Chikwemba against commenting on an issue that is being investigated.
“The one who is childish is the one who wrote that letter. But since the police are investigating, let us give them a chance to investigate. PP officials should have given it time to see where the investigations will lead to. The law will take its course over the issue. Let us just wait and see,” he said.
In the letter which was purportedly addressed to President Peter Mutharika dated April 15, 2017, Chilima allegedly cited dark forces within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as his reasons for resigning.
“Your Excellency, I have served as your Vice President for almost three years now. You made a decision to pick me as your running mate in 2014 with a strong belief that I will deliver in line with your development agenda for Malawi. However, I regret to inform you that I have lost interest in continuing with my noble duties due politicisation of my office by outside forces in terms of press coverage and freedom of action,” reads part of the letter.
Banda rose from being the country’s vice president following the death of the then president Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012. Her ascendancy was resisted by a team of Cabinet ministers who were led by the current President, Peter Mutharika.
Banda then arrested Mutharika and six others for treason. When Banda lost elections to Mutharika in 2014, she refused to accept the results, opting for self-exile since then. She has been claiming that her life is in danger as long as Mutharika is a leader.
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