The State has withdrawn its case against Manes Winnie Chitedze Hale, a naturalised United States of America (USA) citizen, arrested last week Tuesday at Kamuzu International Airport for allegedly insulting President Peter Mutharika through social media posts.
In a notice of discontinuance of the case to Hale and the legal firm Nicholls and Brookes which The Nation has seen, the Lilongwe Principal Resident Magistrate’s Court said the State had dropped the case; hence, no need for Hale, a United Transformation Movement (UTM) member widely known as Abiti Manice on Facebook, to appear before the court on September 6 as per her bail conditions.
Reads the notice in part: “To: Manes Winnie Chitedze Hale. Pursuant to Section 77 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code [CP and EC], I hereby notify you that the State has entered the discontinuance in this matter.”
The arrest of Hale, originally from Kambuku Village, Traditional Authority Kwataine in Ntcheu, sparked a diplomatic incident as the US Embassy in Lilongwe demanded information from the Malawi Government on the development.
Hale was arrested as she was about to catch a flight back to her base in the US after being spotted attending some UTM rallies in Mzuzu and Mangochi addressed by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
She has claimed to be related to the Mutharikas, saying her mother was a sister to the late first lady Ethel, who was former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s first wife.
Yesterday, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala referred the matter to National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera whose phone went unanswered on several attempts.
But in a telephone interview last evening, one of lawyers representing Hale, Chikosa Silungwe, welcomed the development.
However, he pointed out that police should not have arrested her client as Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Names and Emblems Act the State based its case on is of dubious legitimacy under the Constitution.
Lilongwe principal resident magistrate Viva Nyimba last Wednesday granted Hale bail on the basis that there was no evidence she would interfere with police investigations as argued by the State.