The appointment of Duncan Mwapasa as acting police chief has stirred confusion, with HRDC threatening to mobilise Malawians and Parliament to reject him.
On Thursday, President Peter Mutharika named the interim Inspector General of Malawi Police Service to replace Rodney Jose, who has gone on holiday ahead of his retirement in October.
However, HRDC deputy chairperson Gift Trapence said the appointment would compromise the independence of the security agency because Mwapasa is a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sympathiser.
The appointment comes at the height of post-election protests in which Mutharika on Monday ordered the police and Malawi Defence Force to use “any force necessary” to stop protestors from closing borders and airports next week.
HRDC has been convening the marches to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for presiding over elections they perceive as fraudulent.
However, the outgoing IG banned the protests, saying the law enforcers did not have the numbers and props to enforce law and order during the marches characterised by violence, burning and looting.
This has soured the security agency’s ties with HRDC, who fear that Mwapasa may be a replica of his predecessor whom they labeled a DPP cadet, a tag he refused.
Said Trapence: “Mwapasa is a cadet and is a DPP supporter. The police have behaved as a DPP party wing because of him. There are so many professional officers in the police service who can be better inspector generals other than always appointing people from the President’s party, tribe and home. Actually, HRDC will mobilise Malawians and the Parliament to reject him”.
While confirming his appointment yesterday, Mwapasa said he is not a DPP supporter.
Instead, he promised Malawians “a very professional and non-selective police service” which ensure people’s lives and property are protected.
Mwapasa comes from Thyolo, a DPP stronghold. However, he said where a person comes from has nothing to do with professional conduct in the line of duty.
He explained: “Every Malawian has got responsibility to discharge duties professionally in whatever profession he is, regardless of where he comes from. So, to be associating people with their places of origin would be very wrong. After all, I am not joining the police today. I have been in police for a long time.”
Jose, who replaced Lexten Kachama in April last year, retires after reaching the mandatory retirement age. He has served the police service for 36 years.
Recently, he came under fire for calling off demonstrations, saying the police were unable to protect lives and property in the raging protests due to the protesters’ hostile attitude towards police officers.
Euginio Njoloma, a security expert at Mzuzu University, observed that Jose performed well administratively, but failed to provide State security “because he was easily manipulated by the governing party”.
He said: “The biggest problem is that Jose was associated with the governing party from the time of Bingu wa Mutharika and even now.
Njoloma further advised Mwapasa to try as much as possible not to be much inclined to the ruling party, saying his role is to oversee the police service which has to work within the confines of the law.
Mwapasa first served as guard commander for former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika.
Shortly after Bingu’s death April 2012, he was posted from State House to Rumphi Police as officer-in-charge.
Mwapasa was one of the 11 people detained on treason charges during Joyce Banda’s regime and was later indicted by the police. The incumbent named him his guard commander in 2014 and promoted him to deputy IG responsible for administration in 2015.