Former Salima North West legislator Jessie Kabwila spent her third night in a police cell on Monday as the Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court deferred the ruling on her bail application to today.
Police arrested Kabwila, now a UTM Party politician, on Saturday evening in connection with the remarks she made during demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) in Lilongwe on Thursday.
Police construed her utterances as having the potential to incite violence and influence the decision of the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court currently preparing judgement for the presidential election nullification petition.
On Sunday police denied Kabwila bail, a development that saw her appear before senior resident magistrate Shyreen Chirwa on Monday where she took her plea of not guilty to the two charges levelled against her.
In what has been classified as Criminal Case Number 7 of 2020, Kabwila is accused of proposing violence at an assembly contrary to Section 78(1)(a) of the Penal Code and uttering words to the prejudice of judicial proceedings contrary to Section 113 (1)(d) of the Penal Code.
Following her plea of not guilty, the State, represented by Cecilia Zangazanga, told the court they were ready to start trial.
Said Zangazanga: “Considering the plea the accused has taken, the State is ready to start the trial. We are ready to parade five witnesses, one of which is available; hence, we can proceed since the investigations are done.”
The defence, led by lawyer Khwima Mchizi, said they had no objection to the commencement of the trial, but said that should happen after the State has finalised giving their disclosures.
He said: “We have no issues with the State presenting their case. They indeed served me with disclosures, but I would like to know if what they gave us is everything or there is some not provided.
“If not, we cannot proceed with the trial until they have finalized giving us the disclosures.”
In response, Zangazanga told the court that the State has provided 90 percent of the disclosures and that the remaining 10 percent would be submitted within the next five days.
Her response prompted Mchizi to seek an adjournment and proceeded to apply for his client’s court bail.
However, the State objected to the application for bail, arguing that Kabwila would incite violence if released. Zangazanga added that releasing her would also threaten proceedings in the Constitutional Court, especially the judges.
But the defence said the State’s justification was based on allegations.
The presiding magistrate reserved her bail ruling to 9am today.
Said Chirwa: “After listening to all applications, I would like to say that the ruling for the bail [application] will be done tomorrow.”
Kabwila was arrested on Saturday in Area 10 and is being held at Area 3 Police Station.
During demonstrations to force Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa to arrest and prosecute police officers accused of sexually abusing women in Mpingu and M’bwatalika in Lilongwe last October, Kabwila and her colleague Barbara Banda, who is the chairperson for Non-Governmental Organisations Gender Coordination Network, were given the platform to speak in their capacity as rights activists.