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Police search for Commissioner Kunje

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Police in the eastern region have launched a manhunt for Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Commissioner Linda Kunje, who is wanted for questioning following the arrest of her driver and security officer allegedly for conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

The police disclosed that the two were arrested when the car—Kunje’s official vehicle— they were travelling in blocked President Lazarus Chakwera’s convoy at 3 Miles along the Zomba-Blantyre M3 Road.

Eastern region police spokesperson Joseph Sauka said the incident happened on Thursday, when the President was on his way to Chancellor College (Chanco) in Zomba, where he presided over the graduation of students from the University of Malawi’s constituent colleges of Chanco, College of Medicine, The Polytechnic and Kamuzu College of Nursing.

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Sauka said Kunje’s car— which was going in the opposite direction—was ordered, on three occasions, to pave the way for the President’s convoy but the driver defied traffic officers’ orders and continued with the journey against road traffic laws.

Chapter 123 of the Road Traffic Act stipulates that motorists have to stop for the President’s convoy to pass. Specifically, it stipulates that, when a vehicle in which the President is travelling is in motion on any road and is accompanied by an escort, the driver of every other vehicle on that road shall, as soon as the leading vehicle of the escort is within such a distance as to be easily recognisable, draw his vehicle as is reasonably practicable to the side of the carriageway and shall stop such vehicle until the vehicle in which the President is travelling and its escort have passed.

Section 2 of the Chapter states that no person driving a vehicle shall overtake or attempt to overtake any vehicle in which the President is travelling with an escort or any vehicle in such escort, adding that, for the purposes of the said chapter, the two sides of a dual carriageway shall together be deemed to constitute one road.

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“The driver defied traffic officers’ order at 3 Miles. They were also ordered to stop at two different spots at Makokola and Namadzi, where the driver was reluctant to follow instructions to pave the way for the [President’s] convoy. We followed up the car and arrested the driver named Jones Tewesa and a security officer,” Sauka said.

The eastern region spokesperson added that the driver and the security officer, whose names police could not readily divulge, were being held at eastern region police headquarters.

He said the suspects were expected to face the charge of conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

“After recording statements from the driver and the security officer, we want to hear the commissioner’s side of the story as the general understanding is that the driver follows the boss’ instructions in such cases. She was in the vehicle and we want to question her on the matter,” Sauka said.

Sauka has since appealed to the public who know Kunje’s whereabouts to report to the nearest police post.

Meanwhile, Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa has said officials at the commission are not aware that law enforcers are hunting for Kunje. “We are not aware of the development,” Mwafulirwa said.

In an interview, Chancellor College-based legal expert Sunduzwayo Madise said the incident may not affect Kunje’s position as Mec commissioner.

“The police have not even opened a case against her currently.

The law prohibits blocking the road for ambulances, State President and the Vice President’s convoy and this law applies to anyone regardless of the position one holds.

“However, I believe that this is one of those misunderstandings which will be resolved amicably. To me, I doubt if the police will want to take her to court over this issue,” Madise said.

Kunje is one of the Mec commissioners that the courts and Parliament found incompetent in the way they handled the May 2019 tripartite elections and recommended for their removal.

However, former president Peter Mutharika reappointed Kunje and Jean Mathanga to the commission following recommendations from his Democratic Progressive Party.

The current administration is yet to give the two, Kunje and Mathanga, their letters of appointment to the commission. However, they are yet to start receiving their honoraria and benefits as Mec commissioners.

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