Police in Lilongwe yesterday charged rights activist and politician Jessie Kabwila with two counts in accordance to criminal procedures and evidence code following her arrest on Saturday night in Lilongwe.
Kabwila’s lawyer Khwima Mchizi said he attempted to apply for police bail, but officers on duty refused to grant it yesterday.
According to the warrant of arrest and the charge sheet we have seen, Kabwila, who has since spent the second night in the cooler, has been charged with the first count of proposing violence at an assembly, contrary to Section 87 subSection 1 (A) of the Penal Code.
On this count, police are accusing the former parliamentarian for Salima North West of making a statement “calculated or likely to incite violence or induce persons to assemble to do physical harm to persons or damage property by urging the gathering to deal with persons supporting the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] Justice Jane Ansah”.
She has also been charged with an offence of uttering words to the prejudice of judicial proceedings contrary to Section 113 subSection 1 (D) of the Penal Code.
The charge sheet indicates that Kabwila, on January 9 this year, made a speech to the prejudice of the impending judicial judgement to be delivered by a five-judge panel in the constitutional case concerning the May 21 2019 presidential results.
According to UTM Party director of publicity Joseph Chidanti Malunga, Kabwila was arrested on Saturday in Area 10 and she is currently remanded at Area 3 Police Station in Lilongwe pending a court appearance today to answer the two charges.
Last Thursday, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) organised anti-police demonstrations to force Acting Inspector General Duncan Mwapasa to arrest and prosecute his officers who allegedly raped women in Mpingu and Mbwatalika in October last year when they had operations following the death of their fellow senior officer Usuman Imedi.
During the Thursday demonstrations, Kabwila and her colleague Barbara Banda, who is the chairperson for Non-Governmental Organisation Gender Coordination Network, were given the platform to speak in their capacity as rights activists.
The two helped each other to present the petition to the Deputy Inspector General of Police John Nyondo at Area 10 traffic rights, where police spokesperson James Kadadzera says she committed the offence.
Before presenting the petition, Kabwila made her remarks in Chichewa: “Sitizagonjera amene akuseweretsa Constitution yathu… Ngati kuli wina akudziwuza kuti azigwilira anthu, ife tikuti tithana naye… Pamalawi pano panunkha mphira winawake akapereka chigamulo chachibwana chifukwa ifeyo sitilola…” (We will not let anybody to tamper with our Constitution. We will deal with anybody raping women. If the court makes an unfair judgment, this country will smell smoke….”
Meanwhile, HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence has faulted the police for arresting the activist, saying the law enforcing agency is applying selective justice on the matter since it has done nothing on remarks President Peter Mutharika has been making on political podiums where he said he is the winner of the May 21 elections.
He said: “This arrest is a selective application of justice. Peter Mutharika has been saying that he won the elections now and again and nothing has been done. There are also rape cases reported in Msundwe, why is police not arresting the rapists,” he questioned.
Commenting on what her UTM Party will do, Malunga said Kabwila will be supported emotionally and legally. Before she dumped Malawi Congress Party (MCP) early last year, Kabwila was arrested and charged with treasonous offence over a WhatsApp conversation she had with other party officials on how they could topple President Mutharika’s government.