The dragnet is widening and the noose is tightening around suspects who could soon join 11 DPP and former government officials in a treason trial over an alleged plot to stop then Malawi Vice-President Joyce Banda from assuming the presidency.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Bruno Kalemba said on Tuesday more arrests may follow because the State is tracking some people who are believed to have had a hand in the plot.
The arrests of the 11 follow the release of a report of the commission of inquiry into the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika and the events that occurred thereafter.
Nation on Sunday asked Kalemba why some individuals were not arrested after the report implicated more than 30 people in the alleged plot.
“The report is but one of the many issues that have been looked into by the investigation. The arrest of the 11 does not mean the end. There could be more, depending on what transpires. It is not yet over until it is over and it is timeless,” he said.
The report says almost all Cabinet ministers (28 out of 30) unanimously endorsed the statement that their six colleagues read on April 6 in which they said Banda could not become president because she had formed her own party.
“The commission received evidence that in their plenary meeting, the ministers approved the statement and instructed the team of ministers who drafted the statement to proceed and read it out to the general public,” reads the report in part.
National Police spokesperson, Rhoda Manjolo, said on Friday police are conducting further investigations into the matter.
“As of now, all police can say is that there is an on-going investigation,” she said.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) secretary Felisah Kilembe said the institution does not have information on the evidence the State used to arrest the 11 suspects and leave out other people mentioned in the report.
But MLS called on government to treat everyone involved in the Mutharika death saga equally.
“We cannot competently comment on the propriety of leaving out certain individuals who some may believe should have been arrested.
“As said before, we remind the authorities to uphold the principles of rule of law which include equality before the law regardless of political or other considerations,” said Kilembe.
Soon after the report was released, police arrested and charged with treason DPP acting president Peter Mutharika, interdicted Chief Secretary to Government Bright Msaka, his former deputy Necton Mhura and former Cabinet minister Goodall Gondwe.
The arrests included former ministers Patricia Kaliati, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Henry Mussa and Dr Jean Kalirani as well as deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhumwa and Nicholas Dausi.
Former presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa was among those arrested.
Section 3.2.2 of the report says a well attended meeting of Cabinet ministers took place at the Office of the President and Cabinet. It says all ministers, except Dr George Chaponda and Reen Kachere, were present.
“Before the commencement of the meeting, the Chief Secretary addressed the ministers. He read a statement that he had prepared in advance in which he clearly stated that the gathering was not a Cabinet meeting since it was not chaired by the President or the Vice-President, neither had it been convened by either of them.
“He explained that it was a meeting by members of the Cabinet consulting among themselves on the situation at hand,” reads the report in part.
And in what casts light on the State’s case against the suspects, Chancellor College law professors Edge Kanyongolo and Garton Kamchedzera have said for the State to make a convincing case against the suspects, it will need to do deeper investigations and not depend on the report.
“A court cannot base its conclusions of fact based on findings made by a commission of inquiry. A court has to start afresh and collect its own evidence through witness testimonies submitted in court.
“In court, witnesses will be subjected to cross-examination and facts have to be proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt,’” said Kanyongolo.
Kamchedzera also said the report will have to be corroborated by fresh evidence.
Another legal commentator, Justin Dzonzi, said the State needs to submit evidence that demonstrates that the people mentioned in the report are guilty of treason and other charges they face.
“Prosecution will have to bring proof that the mentioned people are guilty with evidence; that is, recordings of conversations, phone calls, letters etc,” said Dzonzi.
But DPP Kalemba, while acknowledging that the State will need to do more to strengthen its case against the 11 suspects and others that may face the law, argued that “depending on the offence proferred, a commission of inquiry report/proceedings can be used in evidence.”
“When any commission of inquiry report is released, it becomes imperative for all government ministries/departments to study the report, its findings and recommendations and make/take necessary interventions to address issues raised that are within their mandate.
“For us in law enforcement, we study the report to find out if there are persons who are suspected to have conducted themselves in a manner that attracted criminal liability. If such persons are found, investigations are carried out to substantiate the allegations and, yes, the commission of inquiry report is but one of the tools that is used in the investigations,” said Kalemba.
“It is the results of the investigations that will determine who will be prosecuted and for what offence and indeed if the investigations discloses no offence, those persons will not be prosecuted,” he said.
span style=’font-family:”Georgia”,”serif”;mso-bidi-font-family: “IowanOldSt BT Roman”;color:windowtext’>If the institution closes, people such as Bamusi Chagomba, 52, will feel the pinch.
Chagomba, who lives in Area 24 in the city, developed a strange wound underneath his right foot in May 2012.
He said he waited for the wound to heal, but it did not and last November he went to Kamuzu Central Hospital where doctors promised to help but never did.
By then, he had begun suspecting that he might have cancer, so he braved his unemployed status and left his Area 24 house to seek help at Daeyang.
“The staff here are friendly and the service is quick. They charged me K8 500 to operate on me which I think is not that expensive,” said Chagomba.
Asked what he would do if the hospital closed, Chagomba said he had no idea.
“Stop the robberies now. These people come from outside Malawi to help us, not to make profits. Go steal elsewhere not here,” he charged.