Fired top Malawi civil servant Bright Msaka, DPP interim leader Peter Mutharika and nine others spent their first night in police custody in Lilongwe on Monday awaiting formal charges by the State following their arrests in the aftermath of a Commission of Inquiry Report that exposes a plot to circumvent constitutional order in succession.
Malawi’s Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe, who was also arrested on Monday, collapsed while in police custody and was rushed to Mars Clinic in Lilongwe’s Area 3.
He was still in hospital as we went to press last evening, confirmed Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, one of the senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials who was with him.
Said Ntaba: “He [Gondwe] collapsed in the police cell and he has been taken to the hospital.”
Besides the three, Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu said the list of the 11 top officials arrested also included former Cabinet ministers Patricia Kaliati, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Henry Mussa and Jean Kalirani. Former deputy ministers Kondwani Nankhumwa and Nicholas Dausi are also on the list as are Msaka’s former deputy Necton Mhura and former presidential guard commander Duncan Mwapasa.
Night in custody
Barely hours after their arrest, Gondwe, who resigned from DPP after declaring himself an independent member of Parliament (MP) and is serving in Joyce Banda’s Cabinet, Vuwa Kaunda and Kaliati were taken ill with hypertension.
DPP treasurer general George Chaponda and Peter Mutharika’s aide, Ben Phiri, confirmed that the three were sick, but said police refused to grant them permission to go to the hospital despite their doctors recommending so.
Said Chaponda: “I went to Lumbadzi Police Station and found Honourable Gondwe in bad shape, he is not feeling well. The same with Honourable Vuwa Kaunda. Honourable Kaliati, who is at Kanengo Police Station, is also not feeling well.”
He also said the arrests were ill-timed and designed to divert people’s attention from economic problems facing the country due to free market economic policies such as the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha and its subsequent floatation.
National Police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo, in an interview last evening, said all the arrested have not been formally charged and were expected to spend the night in custody.
She said: “The investigators are still working on the issue and they are being sorted out one by one, but we will be able to place the charges within the stipulated 48 hours time.”
Manjolo said bail applications for the suspects would be considered after they have been formally charged.
Earlier, Manjolo said the National Police Headquarters had no information that any of those arrested was sick.
She said: “All I know is that the country’s laws stipulate that when someone falls sick while in police custody, he or she has the right to medical care.”
Peter Mutharika, Mussa and Nankhumwa were arrested in Blantyre and taken to Lilongwe.
Mussa and Nankhumwa were taken together to Lilongwe whereas Mutharika left later in the day after handing himself over to Southern Region Police Headquarters.
Mussa, speaking in a telephone interview on the way to Lilongwe, said he was travelling with Nankhumwa. He said about 30 police officers descended on his Mandala house in Blantyre, picked him to police and told him he was being taken to Lilongwe.
Mussa said: “I’m depressed yes, but I’m in high spirits. I know this is witch-hunting.”
Nankhumwa, also in a telephone interview, said he was picked by about 15 police officers from his Chirimba home.
DPP regional governor (South) Noel Masangwi said in an interview the whole issue was political, arguing the arrest of Gondwe was a cover-up.