Parliament last week confirmed the appointment of Rodney José as the new Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) despite opposition from civil society organisations (CSOs) and the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In this interview with our reporter AYAMI MKWANDA the new IG shares his plans and vision for the MPS. Excerpts:
How do you feel to be appointed IG?
I am excited but at the same time shocked. I am excited over the appointment because naturally, it is normal for any person to feel happy when promoted. However, I was shocked to see members of the CSOs expressing opposition towards my appointment as acting IG prior to my confirmation. The CSOs strongly opposed my appointment to the extent they held demonstrations on April 27 for which among other reasons was my appointment as IG in the acting capacity. In fact, on top of the list of the petition, was the demand that the President should remove me from my position. They even gave an ultimatum to the President to reverse his decision within 10 days. But here I am. So, I had mixed feelings when finally Parliament confirmed me as IG.
The CSOs you have mentioned opposed your appointment as IG in Parliament because of your alleged involvement in the murder of University of Malawi student Robert Chasowa in September 2011. What is your response to these serious allegations?
First and foremost, I want to repeat what I have said before. My conscience as Rodney José is very clear. And my hands I am showing you now [raising his hands] are very clean. What I mean is that I have two witnesses to that effect. My first witness is God Himself. He knows that I am innocent. My second witness is the spirit of Robert Chasowa himself. If his spirit were to rise from the grave and stand before you Mr Mkwanda, it would tell you that I did not plan or sit in any meeting or cause his death with my hands. So those people who are saying I should leave office saying my hands are tainted don’t have evidence.
But you interacted with Chasowa when you were commissioner for the South before his death. What do you say?
Yes. I had interacted with Chasowa and his colleagues. The Commission of Inquiry [into his death] mentions very clearly who his colleagues were. I don’t have to repeat them right now. However, I interacted with Chasowa at a professional level. Chasowa and his colleagues offered services to police that they wanted to help in stopping the planned July 20 demonstrations. It’s not us as police who approached him but the other way round. Therefore, I had no reason whatsoever to plan or help anyone to commit the murder.
You have taken over at a time when some quarters have lost trust in the police and accuse it of not being reformed in the way it carries out its duties. As the new IG, what are you going to do to show that MPS is working in a reformed manner?
As someone who has worked in the police service for a long time, I have heard these sentiments that officers are not doing their job in a reformed manner. Indeed the police have undergone reform process which was necessitated by the change of one party regime to a multiparty dispensation. Some people saw it fit that since we were now under a multiparty system, we needed a reformed police, now that the police was serving Malawians in a new political environment. And at first there were strides under the reforms programmes. There was remarkable transformation on the part of the police in the way they discharged their duties. But over the years we have realised that we have slackened in the way we have transacted our duties.
What do you think has been the problem?
The problem is that the police has been politicised. During this multiparty dispensation, all political players have tried to exert influence on Police. In Malawi, even parties outside government want to influence the police. They approach officers and promise them many things. Among others, they tell them they will be made inspector general once they come into power. As such, we have a divided police that has a divided focus. And that is a big challenge. So we need to forget about this influence and keep our focus on professionalism. Our mandate is to serve Malawians. If the reform programmes are failing, it is political players that want to control this institution. We, therefore, appeal to all political players in Malawi not to politicise police. I believe we can do a better job if they stop trying to control the police.
Opposition parties complain that police does not arrest perpetrators of political violence. How do you assure Malawians that they start seeing a proactive police?
Police do not make arrests based on articles published in the newspapers. People ought to bring complaints to police. And by the way, Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] has not declared period for official campaign yet. But if you look around, you will see that parties are already in campaign mode. Another thing is that, when you go to address a political rally, you first notify the city officials. In turn, the councils will notify security officers in charge to strategise for security.
As we approaching 2019 Tripartite Elections, what is your assurance to Malawians that police will protect people’s lives and property should violence rear its ugly head?
Let me assure Malawians through this paper that members of police service and myself are committed to discharge our duties fairly and without bias. Our first commitment is to make sure that 2019 elections are free of violence. So we will do everything possible to make sure Malawians are protected. My two deputies, commissioners and myself have approached Centre for Multiparty Democracy [CMD] to arrange a meeting with all political players. We will discuss issues relating to 2019 elections. We wonder why the parties don’t compete fairly without resorting to violence. n