Police have launched a manhunt for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioner Linda Kunje for allegedly obstructing President Lazarus Chakwera’s convoy on Thursday.
In an interview on Sunday, Eastern Region Police spokesperson Joseph Sauka confirmed that they are looking for Kunje, who defied traffic police orders four times to stop her vehicle and pave the way for the presidential convoy between Six Miles and Namadzi in Zomba and Chiradzulu, respectively.
Chakwera was on Thursday morning travelling from Blantyre to Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima) in Zomba where he was installed as the university’s Chancellor before presiding over a graduation ceremony.
Kunje, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-sponsored commissioner, is reported to have been travelling from Zomba to Blantyre.
Sauka said Kunje’s vehicle almost had a head on collision with two police vehicles (a police vehicle called a sweeper which clears the road minutes before the presidential convoy passes and a leading police vehicle on the convoy) as her vehicle was still moving towards the motorcade despite being stopped by traffic police officers several times.
He said: “Our investigators visited her house in Lilongwe and some hotels which she uses when she is in Blantyre to search for Commissioner Kunje, but they did not find her.
“We have tried to call her several times, but her mobile phones cannot be reached. So, we are appealing to Malawians of goodwill, who know commissioner Kunje’s whereabouts, to inform her that she is wanted by police.”
Sauka, however, said police only managed to arrest Kunje’s driver, John Tewesa, on Friday and also took a security personnel statement on the matter.
He said the police believe that the driver was instructed by Kunje to continue driving despite attempts by traffic police to stop for the presidential motorcade.
Section 123 (1) of the Road Traffic Act, stipulates that: “When a vehicle in which the President is travelling is in motion on any road, and is accompanied by an escort, the driver of every other vehicle on that road shall, as soon as the leading vehicle of the escort is within such a distance as to be easily recognisable, draw his vehicle as is reasonably practicable to the side of the carriageway and shall stop such vehicles until the vehicle in which the President is travelling and its escort have passed.”
Section 123 (5) further states that the dual carriageway shall together be deemed to constitute one road.
According to Sauka, both Kunje and Tewesa are expected to answer charges of conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
Efforts to speak to Kunje on Sunday proved futile as her mobile phone could not be reached on several attempts.
But in an interview, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said Kunje has been in the field monitoring the November 15 by-elections campaign and preparatory activities.
Asked if the commission was aware that Commissioner Kunje is wanted by the police, Mwafulirwa said the electoral body had no formal communication from the law enforcers on the matter.
Commenting on the matter, Malawi Law Society honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde said the law must be applied consistently.
She said no one is above the law unless one has some kind of immunity under the law.
Said Kaukonde: “If there is any alleged offence committed, let it be pursued and dealt with according to law.”
Last month, Kunje told the local media that both her and her fellow DPP-sponsored MEC Commissioner Jean Mathanga were not getting their honoraria since their reappointment in June this year despite working as commissioners.
Addressing Parliament on September 10 this year, Chakwera said he would not send letters of appointment to the two commissioners because they were found incompetent by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament and both the High Court and the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
In 2012, police arrested a Nkhoma Mission Hospital driver in Lilongwe for allegedly defying orders to give way to former president Bingu wa Mutharika and charged him with an offence of failing to stop for a presidential convoy.