Most of the issues that Public Affairs Committee (PAC)—a quasi-religious body that has largely served Malawians well since 1992—has raised in its assessment of the year 2020 are pertinent by all standards.
What else would even the harshest critic of PAC say about the accusation that it has leveled against Police that they are stalling investigations of corruption-related cases when arrests were made—claiming that the development has cast doubt as to whether the arrests were made in good faith?
Clearly this denotes, as PAC notes, that probably the arrests were made without enough and effective investigations—a development that raises questions on the credibility of these arrests as compared to those made by the ACB.
The same is true of all issues that PAC raised such as declaring 2020 a year in which Malawi legal system and the will of the people triumphed as regards the outcome of the court case that culminated into the fresh presidential election case that renewed public confidence in both the legal and electoral systems.
So spot on was PAC’s condemnation of rising cases of Gender Based Violence which were reported in the year that has just gone.
The story of PAC’s assessment of the action-packed year should have ended there and then.
But instead and sadly, PAC has delved into dangerous ground where even angels fear to tread.
In its statement, the body has also called for the discontinuation of former president Bakili Muluzi’s corruption case involving K1.7 billion, saying the government expenditure on such a prolonged matter is huge and the tendency to activate such a matter for political gains has been a dent in the pursuit of the rule of law.
I part ways with PAC here. I just feel they have over played their hand and the stand they have taken is dead wrong.
Here is why.
As PAC notes, this country is governed by the strict adherence to the rule of law.
And the rule of law governing arrests dictates that where the State suspects a crime has been committed, law enforcement agents such as Police or Anti-Corruption Bureau should make an arrest to be followed by prosecution of the case before a competent court of law.
Only the court can determine the guilt or innocence of the accused and proscribe a proper punishment in case of a guilty outcome.
This might be a simplistic view but it encapsulates the whole process of the crime justice system in this democratic process.
Nowhere in our laws does it say any body, be it PAC, has a right to ask the State that someone who is answering a crime should be left scot-free because it has prescribed so.
You see, PAC might think that they have said what they have said with good intentions and probably doing a favour to Muluzi. They have not.
These accusations have always hung around Muluzi since 2006 after he left the presidency in 2004.
He has protested his innocence throughout the process when he has gone in and out of court.
I am sure he would be more proud with the same court declaring him thus and not depend on the goodwill of PAC backed by his supporters to bail him out.
Any other outcome is tantamount to PAC over playing its hand and clearly not within its powers.
It runs counter to President Lazarus Chakwera’s promise that he will govern by the rule of law and will not directly interfere in the processes of the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary.
The sad part is that if the Tonse Alliance administration panders to the whims of PAC, it will greatly undermine another central tenet in the rule of law praxis which is equality of all citizens.
By saying Muluzi should be pardoned before full trial, PAC is suggesting that court trials are only for the nameless and those the quasi-religious body does not know but end up getting arrested for petty offences such as stealing goats and chickens in villages.
Granted, the case against Muluzi was brought against him at the height of mutual but bitter political hatred with his direct successor, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, after the latter left UDF to form DPP when he was sponsored during the 2004 presidential elections by the former.
And yes the late Bingu made pronouncements that Muluzi should face the music on a political podium.
Yet all this does not in any way negate the fact that only the courts should have the final say on the matter and not the antics of PAC.
Clearly PAC board and its trustees plus mother bodies did not think through this issue against its ramifications that I have demonstrated above.
Sadly, this sort of thing, when PAC decides to over step its boundaries, tends to affect its credibility which it has worked so hard to build since its inceptions in the early 90s.
Memories are still fresh when PAC botched demonstrations to force the DPP government to table the electoral bills before the 2019 elections last minute.
It is only the courts that have sorted out the matter once and for all, making a seminal ruling that for one to be President in Malawi, you just have to amass 50 plus 1 percent of the total votes, something that PAC is praising to the sky.
The body is conveniently forgetting that it failed to deliver the same to Malawi and it is instead making off key public pronouncements clearly over stepping the mark and over playing its hand.