Two personal assistants to Vice-President Saulos Chilima were on Sunday arrested at Balaka Police Station for “acting suspiciously” at the launch of Chiwanja Cha Yao in Balaka where President Peter Mutharika was in attendance.
The two, Kushi Unyolo and Joshua Valera, were later released on bail after the Veep, who is also UTM Party torchbearer for the May 21 Tripartite Elections, spent over four hours at the police station seeking an explanation on the two’s arrest.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) national spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed the arrests, saying as police, they are security-cautious at every event where there is the Head of State.
He said: “The two were wandering about and they did not even occupy any seat. They were acting very suspiciously and this attracted security attention, that is why they got arrested. When they were approached, they ran away so police followed them until they apprehended them.”
The police spokesperson said the VP should let them do their work and not interfere if he is a law-abiding citizen.
But UTM secretary general Patricia Kaliati— who was also at the police station at the time of the interview late yesterday afternoon alongside other UTM officials such as Lucius Banda, Bon Kalindo, Louis Ngalande and Noel Masangwi—said the arrest was politically motivated.
She said: “We are surprised because this was a cultural event where the Vice-President had been invited. So, why arrest them for something which is not being justified?”
Chilima was seen leaving the police station at exactly 6:48pm amid cheering from UTM followers who chanted ‘Tatopa ndi Mutharika’ (We are tired of Mutharika).
At that time, UTM lawyers had started processing bail for the two aides.
A highly-placed source from the Chilima camp told The Nation the VP had sent the two personal aides to deliver a gift at the ceremony on his behalf, having failed to attend the Chiwanja cha Ayao launch due to the funeral of his close friend’s father within the district.
The source said upon being notified of the arrest of his two aides, the VP went to the station personally where he demanded an explanation.
He explained: “The VP was invited to the ceremony, but because he had to attend a funeral service within the district, he could not have gone [to the ceremony].
“So instead, he delegated two of his personal assistants to deliver a gift on his behalf but when they arrived at the ceremony, they were told to wait. After hours of waiting, the two sensed some animosity and they decided to leave.”
But, according to the source, as the two left the venue of the ceremony, a police car started trailing them and later were arrested at Chingeni Roadblock, from where they were taken for questioning at the station.
The duo was told by the police that they were being arrested for acting suspiciously at the cultural event.
The commotion attracted some UTM members who followed the two to the police station before supporters also arrived at the scene, chanting songs in favour of Chilima and the UTM Party.
When contacted later in the evening, Chiwanja Cha Yao spokesperson Prince Mtelera said he was not aware of the matter and declined to comment further.
Chilima, promoted as SKC, initials for his full name Saulos Klaus Chilima, broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on June 6 last year and declared that he will challenge Mutharika in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Since his declaration, before and after forming his UTM Party, Chilima has been sidelined from official State engagements.
In February 2014, Mutharika picked Chilima, who worked in the private sector as the first Malawian managing director for Airtel Malawi Limited, as his running mate and the duo ousted then president Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) from Capital Hill (Additional reporting by Mike Van Kamande)