Talking Blues: Hats off to the Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition

“We want to destroy everything, not rebuild on the same rubble. We have different ideas. It is like any work. You must start with a clean slate. Then, you have a programme, a new way of thinking. It is a way of thinking. Not a restoration. Political parties out; and citizens not politicians, in.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Clearing the rubble. A clean slate. A fresh start. Political parties vacating the stage and allowing citizens – aka people power through the so-called Tonse Philosophy – to lead.

Rings a bell, not so?

Tell me, what is your honest assessment? Can you say after 100 days plus you are living the Tonse Dream? Does it look like, any day from now, you will be eating three square meals a day? Are you eating three meals a day? Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?

These questions divide opinion.

Some believe President Chakwera’s yarn that 100 days or so cannot be used to make an impact.

I kind of grudgingly agree.

However, those citing continued business as usual under the new regime and hence refusing to buy Chakwera’s excuses also have a point. Coming from where we have been, we should understand their anxiety.

Keeping the fire burning, however, are a few patriots who are determined not to let anyone sleep on their job.

I am talking about the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC). The HRDC, undaunted, continues to demand results.

It recently wrote the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) over the lack of progress in the prosecution of fraud and corruption cases.

This was after observing that nothing worth writing home about is happening.

”HRDC is concerned about the state of affairs. The questions we ask are: were the arrests without merit? Are some suspects being shielded by the ‘system’? Have our law-enforcement agencies the requisite expertise to professionally prosecute such high-profile cases?” wondered the HRDC.

It cited arrests of Norman Chisale, Collins Magalasi, a socialite called ‘Cash Madam’, Roza Mbilizi, Peter Mukhito and Godfrey Itaye as those of concern.

”We are receiving concerns from Malawians regarding the conduct of law enforcement in ‘draining the swamp’, they feel the way forward is transparency in how your office and the others copied herein are handling these cases,” HRDC adds.

If you recall, during his inauguration on July 6 in Lilongwe, President Lazarus Chakwera promised to clear the rubble of corruption in Malawi which he said has in recent decades ruined the country’s taxes.

This was followed by a furious flurry of high-profile arrests of suspects of fraud and corruption by both Malawi Police Service and ACB; a frenzy which has yielded zilch – zero – nought, in convictions this far.

Hence the disquiet.

Now, let me tell you something. IF there is one thing that Malawians excel in, it is ping-pong. Buck-passing. Shifting the responsibility for doing something to someone else is so rampant that when an official actually insists on doing something, you immediately begin to wonder how much they are planning to embezzle from that venture.

As such and typically so, Mary Kachale – the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) distanced herself from the delays saying that it is the Malawi Police Service and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), bodies mandated to investigate criminal offences in Malawi, which owe Malawians explanations.

“In that vein, I wish to inform you that as far as I am aware, all the cases you have mentioned are at the investigative stage. As such, this office does not have the competence to comment on their progress as requested.

”I hereby refer you to the Inspector General of Police for the purposes of obtaining appropriate feedback on the matters you have raised,” thus, reminiscent of the Biblical Pontius Pilate, Mary Kachale washed clearing the rubble off her hands.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said for the cases HRDC cited, investigations are in progress.

”We have been flat out conducting investigations on many high-profile cases involving murder, abuse of office, theft and others. We have been open to the public through the media, and when we complete investigations on any of these cases, we will inform them.”

Since then, a statement signed by Kadadzera says the Police have investigated 20 cases whose files are ready for prosecution.

”As of October 12, 2020, two of these files were sent to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecutions. The service further states that investigations on other cases falling in the same category are still underway and that Malawians shall be updated on the finished cases that are ready for court.

”The cases in question include those of arson, murder, abuse of office, money laundering, theft by public servant and assault,” Kadadzera indicated.

While I am tempted to ask what exactly is taking the Police so long to “investigate” these cases, some of which are relatively straight forward because the HRDC had already done the donkey work, I will desist and save that question for another day.

Right now, I want to make three points clear.

First, the Police, under the current environment, has no excuses. Hence, to regain public trust, the Police should put this opportunity to good use.

Reminders from HRDC are hardly a means of fostering lost trust.

Second, I want to urge the Executive to keep its eye on the ball.

Having eliminated funding and interference challenges in the investigative bodies, the Executive must hold the duty bearers to account.

The ACB, the DPP and the Police Service are still under the Executive Branch of government and hence monitoring their effectiveness should not be HRDC’s baby.

That’s hardly clearing the rubble. On clearing the rubble, the buck stops on Chakwera’s desk. No one else’s. Furthermore, he promised to clear the rubble and now that push has come to shove, he must deliver.

No excuses. No clever statements.  Mr President, clear the rubble!

Third and finally, concerning the HRDC, Malawians were wary because it appeared as if the HRDC and the ruling Tonse Alliance had developed a dangerously incestuous relationship and as a result, HRDC would be utterly defiled.

However, via its whistle-blower initiative and this pressure, the HRDC continues to demonstrate enviable world-class watchdog leadership in this region, in Africa and beyond.

With everyone rallying behind the HRDC, unlike in Italy where Beppe Grillo’s aspiration in the quote I started with and despite the Tonse regime’s wobbly take off; here in Malawi, we can salvage something tangible and sustainable.

But first of all, there should be no peace for the wicked.

HRDC, salute!

 

 

 

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