Human rights activist John Kapito says there was drama at a hotel in Lilongwe on Saturday afternoon when over 25 police officers swooped on him as he made his way out.
Kapito, chairperson of the State-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), recalled on Sunday he was greeted by an army of civilian and uniformed police officers.
He said one of the officers demanded to know what sort of meeting he was holding at the hotel where he went to meet someone.
Kapito said within minutes, his car was surrounded by the officers, scrambling for it as they opened every door and boot in search of “harmful” materials. He claimed some of the officers even disappeared under it in case Kapito kept some guns.
The police action attracted spectators who watched in awe at the live action which is otherwise offered on their television screens.
Said Kapito: “All the while, I complied. But my confidence remained unmoved because, as a human rights defender, you must prepare to go through tribulations like I did. I was bundled into a police vehicle for Area 3 Police Station only to be moved to Area 30 [National Police Headquarters] then finally Lumbadzi Police Station.
“It was here [at Lumbadzi] where police obtained a search warrant for my house and we left at about 7 pm to look for seditious materials. The search yielded nothing and we returned to Area 30 where I was given an unconditional bail at my own surety about three hours later.”
Contrary to policeâ€™s earlier charge of illegal possession of forex, Kapito said a new charge of alleged possession of materials carrying seditious works emerged.
Kapito said he has no hard feelings regarding his experiences, claiming the arresting officers sympathised with him and said they were acting under instructions.
Said Kapito: “They showed a great amount of professionalism and never harmed me. They did what they did under whoever gave them instructions.
“I am proceeding with my trip today [Monday] and I will never be stopped because even if I die, my spirit shall live on and cause more trouble. I do not believe in challenging the issue, but since the matter goes to court on March 30, I may decide then how to strategise.”
Kapito was due to travel to Geneva Switzerland on the same Saturday for a week-long International Coordinating Committee (ICC) of the office of Human Rights Commission. He said he would get his legitimate foreign currency he got from Standard Bank upon collecting relevant documentation.
He granted the interview from a hotel room where he sought refuge after his house was ransacked during the police search.
One of his lawyers, Wapona Kita, said whereas there were many sedition cases in this country, the few that have gone through the court process have ended in acquittals.
Presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba said he only knew about the illegal possession of foreign currency charge and referred the matter back to police whom he said have reason for arresting and charging Kapito.
National police spokesperson Dave Chingwalu said he needed time to find out about the treason charge because he did not have information.
Section 51 (1) of the Constitution stipulates: “Any person who, without lawful excuse, has in his possession any seditious publication shall be liable for a first offence to a fine of 200 pounds and to imprisonment for three years and for a subsequent offence to imprisonment for four years; and such publication shall be forfeited.”