Malawi Police Service (MPS) has transferred 46 officers previously assigned to immediate-past vice-president (VP) Saulos Chilima in a move some of the affected officers say is a form of punishment.
The transfers to the Northern Region are with immediate effect according to a letter signed by Commissioner Joseph Chambuluka, responsible for human resource management.
The relationship between the officers and their superiors soured last July after Chilima fell out with President Peter Mutharika and declared he would challenge him boss in the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
At the time, the 46 officers were transferred from the VP’s security detail to National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe, the Police Mobile Service (PMS) C Company near Lilongwe CCAP and to PMS in Blantyre. However, they obtained a court order that restricted MPS from proceeding with the transfers.
With Chilima no longer Veep following the swearing-in of Everton Chimulirenji as new VP, he will only be accorded security as per benefits of a former VP.
Former head of Chilima’s security detail, Clement Gulo, has been transferred to Likoma Island as officer-in-charge while his colleagues have been transferred to police stations or sub-stations such as Kanengo in Lilongwe, Mponela in Dowa, Nthalire in Chitipa, Kafukule, Kabwafu, Emfeni and Euthini in Mzimba; Ntchenachena in Rumphi, Usisya in Nkhata Bay and Chizumulu in Likoma.
Some of the officers, who were interdicted on half pay but were served by a court order, have described the move as a way of punishing them, noting that no one has been transferred to establishments in the Southern Region.
Said one officer: “We know this is witch-hunting. We still have questions if they will put us back on full pay because if one is on interdiction he is not supposed to be transferred. We will wait to hear from our lawyer to see the way forward.”
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said he needed time to consult his office as he was out in the field and just heard the news from social media.
In an interview, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Timothy Mtambo has since condemned the timing of the transfers, saying it raises a lot of questions.