Malawi Police Service (MPS) is from today expected to suspend all private duties of its officers to enhance manpower.
It is not clear if MPS has taken the action to beef up security ahead of the presidential election case judgement day.
In a communication to all police regional offices, border units and training institutions, Acting Inspector General (IG) of Police, Duncan Mwapasa, did not specify reasons for the decision.
The Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe is expected to deliver the verdict by February 3 2020.
Mwapasa has, however, warned that those that will not comply with the order will be ‘severely sanctioned’, further decreeing his charges to treat the matter as important.
“Deployment of police officers for private duties has been temporarily suspended from 27/01/2020 until further notice. Any deployment on private duties must be sanctioned by the Inspector General,” the communication reads.
When contacted for clarification, Mwapasa referred The Daily Times to national police spokesperson, James Kadadzera.
“Talk to the Public Relations Officer. You know who to contact on these matters,” he said.
Kadadzera was, however, not available for a comment.
But a source told The Daily Times on Saturday that the order implies that hiring of security services from the public law enforcers is prohibited within the stated period.
He, however, said there might be exceptions such as on bank money transfer escorts.
“There is fear that violence might erupt in the aftermath of the election case ruling and the IG is not taking chances. He would like to have enough troops on the ground.
“The directive means that there is not going to be any private hiring of police officers as security personnel for private functions such as rallies, weddings and other gatherings unless it is crucial. Most likely, there will be enhanced manpower in hotspots such as Lilongwe and Mzuzu,” he said.
Public Affairs Committee (Pac) Executive Director, Robert Phiri, said the police have done well to take care of the security scenarios that might arise when the ruling of the case is delivered.
He, however, appealed to MPS to remain responsive and accessible to private citizens and entities when need arises throughout the period of the suspension.
“What the police have done has to be supported. However, there is need that calls for security whenever and wherever have to be attended to. Let me reiterate our message that there has to be peaceful mechanisms of expressing dissatisfaction for those that will not be satisfied with the court’s verdict,” Phiri said.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Secretary General, Eisenhower Mkaka, whose party leader Lazarus Chakwera is the second petitioner in the election case, said police can be excused this time adding the party appreciates the security needs of the nation during the period in question.
Saulos Chilima of UTM is the first petitioner and alongside Chakwera sued Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) and Peter Mutharika who the former declared winner of the presidential election which they want nullified.
“Well, the police are caught between the rock and a hard place. They have a duty to provide security to the public while at the same time there are private citizens with stakes to protect; hence, the need for the wisdom of balancing up things. Let us look at the bigger picture,” Mkaka said.
Since the Constitutional Court comprising Mike Tembo, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and chairperson Healey Potani, finished hearing the case last month, there has been growing anxiety in the country.
Such tension prompted bodies such as Pac and political parties to embark on a deliberate campaign to prepare Malawians for the verdict to promote peace and tolerance.
The anxieties have, however, of late been exacerbated by revelations of attempts to bribe the judges.