Malawi Police Service (MPS) has once again shaken up the security detail of estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima by interdicting 40 police officers allocated to the Second Citizen despite a High Court order stopping the same still in force.
Some of the police officers in the Vice-President’s security detail who have collected their letters told The Nation yesterday the situation was getting scary.
Said one of the affected officers: “I am concerned that despite the court order, they are still doing this to us. They [police authorities] are now calling us one after another to collect the letters from the stations that we were transferred to.”
But when asked why the police was apparently defying court orders stopping the interdiction of the officers, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera only said: “No comment.”
In January this year, the High Court of Malawi stopped the police from interdicting the 40 officers after MPS director of human resource management Joseph Chambuluka wrote the affected officers informing them that they were interdicted for absenteeism.
Private practice lawyer Bright Theu, who represented the 40 officers, obtained the injunction which is still valid.
Yesterday, the lawyer said he was yet to be briefed by his clients on the latest development.
He said: “I do not have any information to that effect as of now.”
In the initial interdiction letter which is similar to the current one addressed to all the officers, MPS said: “Be informed that the following have been interdicted from duty on half pay with effect from 9 January 2019 pending completion of a disciplinary case of absenting oneself without leave contrary to Section 3 of the Police Officers Schedule to Section 52 of the Police Act.”
The initial interdiction notice came barely hours after the same police invited the concerned officers to a disciplinary hearing on January 9 2019. However, the hearing did not take place following a September 2018 court order stopping the process.
In the September 30 2018 court order served on MPS classified as judicial review case number 49 between the Vice-President and Inspector General (IG) of Police Rodney Jose, it was ordered that the security detail should continue serving the Office of the Vice-President until an interpartes hearing took place.
In January this year, the IG wanted to change the Vice-President’s security detail by redeploying 40 of the officers.
Reacting to the developments, Malawi Law Society honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde said in an interview yesterday police should obey court orders served on them.
She said: “If the hearings are to be carried out after the order is discharged, then there is nothing wrong. Court orders are supposed to be complied with by all.
“If the officers did not move to the allocated stations as they were complying with the order, then any negative decision that would be made against them would be subject to review upon seeking legal redress from the court using the said court order and employment law.”
Kaukonde said compliance with legal provisions and court orders is the foundation stone for peace and rule of law.
Human rights defender Gift Trapence has since cautioned police to refrain from being used by politicians, saying the men in uniform should serve the country and respect the rule of law.
“The police should not be above the law, they should aim at operating within the law and they know the privileges of the VP, so why are they acting like that? This witch-hunting must stop and they need to comply with court order,” he said.
Barely days after Vice-President Saulos Chilima unveiled his political mission to challenge President Peter Mutharika in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, government reviewed his security detail comprising Police Mobile Service officers, before the court stopped the move.
The Vice-President was left with seven security guards to man his two official residences at Area 12 in Lilongwe and Mudi House in Blantyre, the office at Capital Hill and his motorcade after almost 46 were transferred, according to a handwritten communication dated July 25 2018 signed by Deputy IG (Operations) Duncan Mwapasa.
Since Chilima’s June 6 2018 announcement that he had relinquished his membership to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the subsequent formation of UTM Party which he heads as president, it has been a cat-and-mouse chase between his office and the government machinery.
The President on July 8 last year also ordered that Chilima should no longer co-chair the Malabo Montpeller Forum, an international think-tank to which he was appointed in September 2017.
Further, Mutharika also left out Chilima’s name and portifolio in his Cabinet list despite Section 92(1) of the Constitution providing: “There shall be a Cabinet consisting of the President, the First Vice-President, the Second Vice-President and such ministers and deputy ministers as may, from time to time, be appointed by the President.” n