Governance and political commentators have underscored the need to free law enforcing agencies from political manipulation to ensure they are able to arrest top officials who are still in power.
The sentiments follow a trend of arrests of top government officials every time there is a change of government in the country.
For the past three weeks, State agencies; Anti-Corruption Bureau, Fiscal Police and police have arrested some key figures in the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for a range of cases including corruption, arson, and murder. Some of the cases date back to 2016.
But in separate interviews political and social commentators said the recent wave of arrests partly explains selective justice which is applied where only perceived members or sympathisers of the opposition are subjected to judicial processes while those in the ruling party are sacred cows even when they are on the wrong side of the law.
A political science lecturer at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Ernest Thindwa said change of administration allows law enforcing agencies to reactivate cases.
“Unfortunately new administrations tend to continue the practice of selective justice exposed only when there is a turnover in administration thereby creating a vicious cycle.
“What ought to be done is to insulate the public service, especially law enforcing agencies from political manipulation,” he said.
According to Thindwa, such will entail redesigning the legal framework governing these agencies in a manner that the State agencies should be loyal to the country as opposed to their political masters as is the case today.
The commentator said in the current legal framework, effectiveness of some law enforcing agencies is largely dependent on the goodwill of the President.
Thindwa emphasised that the country should move away from placing trust in individuals occupying the offices and instead put faith in our laws and rules of engagement in the public domain.
Chimwemwe Tsitsi, a political analyst from University of Malawi’s Polytechnic, agreed that there is need to enhance rule of law by genuinely empowering governance State agencies like the police and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Said Tsitsi: “The law is already okay but we need political will to the effect that even those responsible for wrongdoing in the ruling party should be prosecuted. I think the starting point would be to see to it that those heading governance institutions like ACB and the police are not fired anyhow by the president.
“To truly attain their independence, they too can be protected by law as is the case with judicial officers as witnessed in the last days of Peter Mutharika’s regime whereby he failed to interfere with the judicial services in his attempt to fire the Chief Justice.”