Two months after withdrawing and later reinstating Vice-President (VP) Saulos Chilima’s security detail following a court order, authorities have moved 42 officers from the VP’s office and Mudi Residence in Blantyre.
A list of the transferred officers we have seen shows that 15 have been transferred from the Office of the VP to Police Mobile Service (PMS) ‘A’ Division, 21 to ‘C’ Division, one to Kanengo, two to Kawale, one to Lingadzi and two from Mudi Residence to PMS ‘B’ Division.
Without specifying the exact number of officers transferred, Office of the VP press officer Pilirani Phiri said they were not given reasons why the transfers have been effected.
He said: “Yes, it is true that they have withdrawn some security officers, but they have not given us reasons.”
The communication on the postings instructs the affected officers to report at their new duty stations today.
In a separate interview, Malawi Police Service (MPS) national spokesperson James Kadadzera yesterday described the transfers as normal.
He said: “I can confirm that a number of security detail has been posted from the Vice-President’s office. This is normal in the service. What you have seen is just a confirmation of the postings.
“The only officers remaining are there in accordance to the VP’s entitlement. I cannot tell you how many because this is a security and sensitive issue, but all I can say is the postings have been confirmed.”
Sources confided yesterday that the transferred security officers have not been replaced.
But human rights activist and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence said the transfers are ill-timed and leave a lot to be desired.
He described the move as a reflection of anger with the twist in political allegiance of the VP who broke ranks with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on June 6 2018 and declared he will challenge his boss, President Peter Mutharika, in the presidential race in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections through the newly formed United Transformation Movement (UTM).
Trapence said it is in the public discourse that the transfers amount to political witch-hunt and that it is not imperative to compromise the security detail of the VP.
In July, Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara issued a directive reducing the number of police officers guarding the VP’s official residences in Lilongwe and Blantyre, transferring police officers working at the residences and withdrawing some of the vehicles assigned to the Veep’s office.
Government transferred about 46 officers, leaving Chilima with seven to man his residences, office at Capital Hill and motorcade.
But Chilima, through private legal firm Ritz Attorneys, obtained an order and sought a judicial review on the decision.
The order also restrained Muhara from withdrawing some of the vehicles assigned to Chilima although government then was yet to effect the action.
Following the July transfers, some officers were given three to 10 days to wind up at their duty stations while others, such as those at the VP’s official residence in Mandala, Blantyre, were given immediate transfers.
However, in August, both parties to the judicial review proceedings—government and the VP—mutually agreed to settle the issue outside the courts, effectively withdrawing the court order.
Under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act, the Vice-President, among other benefits, is entitled to one personal bodyguard, one head of security guard, six security guards, two chauffeurs, two cooks and two personal assistants.
Since his announcement to part ways with DPP, Chilima—whom Mutharika picked from the private sector in January 2014 as his running mate r—was stripped off his Cabinet portfolio of Minister Responsible for Disaster Management Affairs and in-charge of National Public Events.
The President on July 8 also ordered that Chilima should no longer be co-chair of the Malabo Montpeller Forum, an international think-tank to which he was appointed in September 2017. n