United Democratic Front (UDF) Members of Parliament (MPs) engaged President Peter Mutharika, demanding that he explains his administration’s interest in the ongoing corruption case involving former president Bakili Muluzi.
The case has been in court for 12 years.
The MPs, who met Mutharika on Wednesday last week, believe the government is deliberately dragging the case in order to persecute the former president, effectively limiting his opportunity to use his experience and influence on the country’s political landscape.
Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani confirmed the meeting and the agenda.
Several UDF MPs we interviewed corroborated that during the meeting, they pointed out their concern that the case is taking too long to conclude.
“We want the DPP-led government to reveal its interest in the case because we feel if the case had merit, it could have been concluded by now. We believe this case is politically motivated that is why it is not being concluded,” said one of the MPs, who asked not to be named because he did not lead the delegation to the state house Another UDF MP said the case should have been concluded by now.
“If there is evidence against Muluzi, let the case be concluded. To us this [the case] is torture to the former president and we cannot allow this to happen,” the MP said.
The MPs, who said their delegation was led by Lilian Patel, explained that Mutharika denied that he is persecuting Muluzi.
But when contacted, Patel refused to comment on the meeting, saying the MPs who tipped this reporter should continue divulging more details of the meeting.
On his part, Kalilani confirmed that the UDF MPs indeed raised the issue during the meeting and in response; the President told them that personally, he could relate to the challenges Muluzi is facing in having to attend to a trial for such a protracted period.
“The President informed the UDF MPs that he had no authority on the matter as the case is being handled by another arm of government; the Judiciary and that he is not supposed to interfere,” Kalilani said.
Kalilani, however, defended the lengthy period the case has taken, saying it is not the only one which has dragged as evidenced by the availability of similar cases at the high court registry.
“[But] the delays in concluding the matter have been due to reasons attributable to both sides of the case; reasons such as illness on the part of the former president at some point, preliminary objections from his team, appeals from his team, applications from the prosecution team. As such, I would strongly opine that to blame only one side of the case for the delay would not be a fair position,” he said.
The matter had also ignited sparks during the just concluded Parliament meeting, where UDF legislators, with the backing of Malawi Congress Party MPs, admonished the government over the same issue.
But the Malawi Law Society (MLS) has faulted the whole idea of the UDF MPs and the State President entertaining suggestions for the presidency to be involved in a matter which is under an independent arm of government.
MLS Honorary Secretary Michael Goba Chipeta explained that the action by the UDF MPs and the President is totally wrong as it clearly goes against the principle of separation of powers, which is enshrined in the country’s constitution.
“The executive should never be involved in the business of another independent arm of government. This meeting really pose a serious threat to the country’s constitutionalism and as a country, we should do everything possible to ensure that this does not become a habit,” Chipeta said.
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