Barely days after Vice-President Saulos Chilima unpacked his political mission to challenge President Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), government yesterday reviewed the Second Citizen’s security detail comprising Police Mobile Service (PMS) officers.
The Vice-President has been 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 effective yesterday, according to a handwritten communication The Nation has seen copied to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Duncan Mwapasa.
Those transferred have been moved from the Office of the Vice-President (OVP) to National Police Headquarters and the PMS C Division in Lilongwe while two from Mudi House have been moved to PMS B Division at Kanjedza in Blantyre.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera last evening confirmed the transfers in an interview, saying it is a response to exigencies of work in the stations the officers have been posted to.
He said: “I can confirm that a number of security detail have been transferred from the Vice-President’s office. This is responding to exigencies of work.
“The only officers remaining are there in accordance to the VP’s entitlement. I cannot tell you how many because this is a security and sensitive issue. All I can say is that the transfers have been made.”
OVP press officer Pilirani Phiri last evening also confirmed the change in the VP’s security detail, saying: “Yes, it is true. The administration briefed me today about the development. But for more details the police and OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet] are well placed.”
Under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act, the Vice-President, among other benefits, is entitled to one personal bodyguard, one head of security guard, six security guards, two chauffeurs, two cooks and personal assistants.
Earlier yesterday, Chief Secretary in the OPC Lloyd Muhara had written all principal secretaries and heads of departments in what was classified as Distribution List ‘A’ under the subject Privileges and Benefits for the Right Honourable Vice-President.
In the communication The Nation has seen, Muhara said he was reminding the recipients that “the Right Honourable Vice-President should only be accorded such privileges and benefits as prescribed by law whenever the Vice-President is performing government business”.
However, the development has coincided with Chilima’s severing of ties with President Peter Mutharika’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whose administration he has accused of entrenching corruption, impunity, nepotism and mismanagement of public funds.
During the launch of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) on Saturday in Lilongwe, Chilima went on the prowl and accused government of scheming to rig the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
However, government has dismissed the rigging assertion.
Reacting to the development, commentators questioned the timing of government’s decision.
They described the move as emotional, especially coming at a time Chilima has switched political allegiance.
George Phiri, a political analyst at the University of Livingstonia, said: “These are not normal transfers. Where have they been all this time to just effect the transfers now? The security detail cannot be disturbed. They can’t say that it is a normal transfer, unless they replaced with equal number then they can say it is normal.”
In an apparent reference to the ill-treatment faced by Cassim Chilumpha and Joyce Banda as State VPs, human rights defender Gift Trapence said the DPP administration is fond of mistreating Vice-Presidents.
He said instead of reducing Chilima’s security detail, government should have trimmed the President’s motorcade in the run up to the 2019 elections.
Said Trapence: “This cannot and should not be tolerated in our democracy. This is pure political witch hunting. Let the Vice-President enjoy what is due to him, rather than persecuting him because he threatened to reveal names of corrupt DPP leaders.”
Since Chilima announced on June 6 this year that he was leaving DPP, he has been stripped of the portifolio of Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs and in-charge of National Public Events.
The President on July 8 also ordered that Chilima should no longer be co-chair of the Malabo Montpeller Forum, an international think tank to which he was appointed in September 2017.