There is visible security lapse at the Vice-President’s Mudi House in Blantyre following government’s review of the Second Citizen’s security detail that has seen Police Mobile Service (PMS) officers leaving the premises.
During a spot check at the house in Blantyre yesterday after the withdrawal of almost 46 PMS officers on Wednesday, The Nation observed that there was no one manning the gates. Previously, the premises were heavily guarded despite registering a break-in in 2014.
A civilian who later attended to The Nation outside the entrance gate to Mudi House said senior Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers in a PMS vehicle on Wednesday evening ordered all the eight PMS officers guarding the premises to leave.
Barely five days after Vice-President Saulos Chilima unpacked his political mission to challenge President Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), government on Wednesday revised the Second Citizen’s security detail.
The Vice-President was left with seven security guards—including a guard commander—for his two official residences at Area 12 in Lilongwe and Mudi House in Blantyre, the office at Capital Hill and his motorcade, according to a handwritten communication The Nation has seen copied to the Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations) Duncan Mwapasa.
In an interview yesterday, Office of the Vice-President spokesperson Pilirani Phiri said the security situation was worrisome and Chilima has personally engaged a private security firm to protect his family at Area 12.
He said the Vice-President will also arrange security for Mudi House when he travels to Blantyre this weekend.
Said Phiri: “Oh! That’s sad. But, as we speak, the Vice-President has engaged a private company for the Area 12 residence in Lilongwe.”
But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, in an interview yesterday, said the police will ensure security at the residences.
He said: “Mudi House is a government building and police are going to make necessary measures to make sure that the house has security. As regards to the entitlement, it is within the law, and the Vice-President has been given according to Vice-President Immunity and Benefits Act. There is a guard commander there and he is going to make a right deployment. He knows how best to do it. He is a professional man.”
Reacting to the developments, governance commentator Rafik Hajat said removing all security personnel at Mudi House is tantamount to recklessness and an indication that government has failed to provide security for State assets.
He said: “For the Veep to hire private security, it means government is not respecting the terms of the Constitution which requires the Veep and the President to have adequate security.”
On Wednesday political commentators questioned the timing of the government’s decision to remove Chilima’s security detail.
They described the move as emotional, especially coming at a time Chilima has switched his political allegiance.
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 personal assistants.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chief Secretary in the OPC Lloyd Muhara had written all principal secretaries and heads of departments in what was classified as Distribution List ‘A’ under the subject Privileges and Benefits for the Right Honourable Vice-President.
During the launch of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) on Saturday in Lilongwe, Chilima went on the prowl and accused government of scheming to rig the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
However, government has dismissed the rigging assertion.
Since Chilima announced on June 6 this year that he was leaving DPP, he has been stripped of the Cabinet portifolio of Minister responsible for Disaster Management Affairs and 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.
In February 2006, some civil society organisations also accused the incumbent President’s elder brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, of systematic abuse following his administration’s announcement that his then deputy Cassim Chilumpha had “constructively resigned” from his position.