The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), ousted from power after the June 23 fresh presidential election, is claiming that recent arrests of its members borders on political persecution.
But Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has dismissed the claims, saying those arrested are reaping what they sow.
The comments follow the arrest of DPP regional governor for the Centre David Kambalame on Thursday, on alleged assault charges which came on the heels of the arrest of the party’s Bangwe Mthandizi Ward Councillor Isaac ‘Jomo’ Osman over allegations of theft and malicious damage.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who was minister of Homeland Security in the Peter Mutharika administration, alleged in an interview yesterday that the arrests are aimed at silencing the DPP, which is now an opposition party, describing the arrests as “sheer vengeance”.
Dausi said he was aware that senior members and leaders of DPP are targeted for offences they did not commit, alleging that the Tonse Alliance, which took over power led by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM, was geared to arrest DPP members on tramped-up charges.
DPP also held a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday to amplify the message about the purported political persecution.
But MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali, in an interview yesterday, said his party was aware of a DPP scheme to pre-empt obvious pending arrests of its members who plundered public funds and are now living in fear.
“We know they stole public funds and the best they can do is to return what they stole. Let me make it clear to them, MCP is not going to arrest anyone, the Tonse Alliance administration would simply let the law take its course,” Munthali said.
He insisted that the Tonse Alliance administration would leave no stone unturned, warning that the law would catch up with anyone, regardless of their position or party affiliation.
“If people stole, if they killed, or committed any other offences, they must be prepared to reap what they sow. In a situation where an accused returns what was stolen, it demonstrates a degree of remorse and the law takes care of that when sentencing such people in a situation where a conviction is secured,” he said.
Munthali said the Tonse Alliance assured Malawians during campaign that it would respect the rule of law, and going against that would be a betrayal of the highest order. He said the new administration would try as much as possible to plough back what was stolen from the people of Malawi, using applicable laws.
He said the arrests were not witch-hunting or political persecution, arguing that if the DPP administration respected the laws of Malawi, its members being arrested now would have been arrested then.
“This just demonstrates that the DPP administration was good at shielding its members and this encouraged lawlessness. We have people that got away with so many offences or atrocities simply because they belonged to the DPP. Now, people should not start blaming the law,” he added.
National police spokesperson James Kadadzera, in an interview yesterday, said both cases are not political, arguing that the acts committed were criminal in nature, but police in sometimes read situations socially and politically.
He dismissed assumptions that police were failing to make arrests because the DPP was in power, adding that they keep records and at an appropriate time, and after thorough investigations, arrests are made.
Kadadzera said Kambalame assaulted MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka at a police station in Lilongwe while Osman was also involved in assault of individuals, theft and malicious damage.
But Dausi insisted that their members were being targeted for political reasons.
“I thought the Tonse Alliance would settle down and start discussing how to arrest Covid-19 pandemic, but see, only one week in office, they have started plotting how to silence DPP,” he insisted.
Asked why the DPP administration did not arrest people who have been arrested now for offences they committed, Dausi said that was the job of Malawi Police Service and as a party, they had nothing to do with it.
One of Mutharika’s top aides, who opted for anonymity, also claimed the arrests are meant to instill fear in DPP members, including its leader Mutharika, fashioned to silence what he called “a formidable opposition block, even in Parliament”.
“They want to take us under. They are operating on a philosophy that former president Joyce Banda goofed by giving Prof Peter Mutharika space by not arresting him when he was in opposition and he maneuvered and ousted her on the ballot.
“They have agreed not to make that mistake again, and the way to go is by arresting senior officials and kill the party,” claimed the ex-State House official.
But Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said in an interview yesterday DPP should not cry wolf now because it is a party on record to have arrested people, including human rights defenders, arbitrary.
“This is simply a scheme to preempt whatever State agencies would be doing in the next few weeks or months. They know the arrests are eminent. What they are doing is obstruction to justice, let they return what they stole,” Trapence said.
Limbe Police Station spokesperson Patrick Mussa explained earlier that Osman was arrested on allegations that on May 25 2019 he, with other people, armed with pangas, stormed into the compound of Blantyre Bangwe legislator Orphan Shaba where they caused chaos.
He said Osman allegedly damaged three car windscreens and stole five mobile phones amounting to K1 035 000. n