Nyasa Times Dirt Detective: Malawi’s ridiculed corridors of justice

A few recent developments as well as the status quo in the country give us the creeps when we think of the rule of law in our beautiful country, Malawi.

Recently the State President, Joyce Banda, intervened in a row over the disappearance of a Maize mill in Nsanje. She went further to order the police to go into action by arresting the suspected person.

But this is a relatively small case and taking the intervention of the highest office in the country to get the police to do something about it means two things:

A)    Our police does nothing until someone high up orders it to start doing the work they are supposed to do and are paid for. And a person with no high connections is without protection from the law. Simply, the police is not functioning.

B)     The president has to take time to act on such small matters that (unfortunately) happen time and again in our beautiful motherland. So she has no time to do the real presidential work at the state house which is to develop policies. And that is why there are perhaps no policies to take the country at another level. Economics: an Economic Recovery Plan (EPR) was made but failing to be implemented. Justice: she intervenes or else you get no justice. Trade: she travels with a huge entourage but nothing tangible comes out of her travels other than wasting taxi payers’ money.

Mphwiyo: Critical but in stable condition

Mphwiyo: Critical but in stable condition

Thus, is it a miracle then that one Ken Msonda, ruling Peoples Party  (PP) deputy spokesperson does not run to the police when some houses of his party supporters are allegedly torched (by purported opposition Democratic Progressive Party- DPP supporters). No! This prominent, defiant and controversial ruling party official communicates threats that sound like a gangster film: “We have ways of hitting back, our party machinery can deal with these people.”

This is backed up by another incident where the so called PP ‘Youth Morale’ get into a fistfight at Salima Roadblock when the president had a wise idea of dishing out some scarce kwachas to the boys but without an organized system.

We all know these are not well organized youths, the ones you would expect from a “ruling party”. These are fighters, thugs and that may have been what Msonda was referring to.

On the other hand if Joyce Banda can lead a government that has the whole ministry of finance, and above that a party that has the whole treasurer general, you would think she would know a better way of financing her youth wing, rather than throwing cash around at a roadblock as if she was dancing the Pelekani Pelekani at her party cadre’s wedding.

And now more recently there is the prevailing case of Paul Mphwiyo, the director of budget in the ministry of finance. The man stands up against corruption. This is not to everybody’s liking, as can perhaps be expected in the Banda’s administration. But these criminals go as far as shooting him thrice. No the youthful director is in “critical but stable condition”. This is usually a euphemism for: he is mostly dead but a machine is doing his vital functions for him and chances of him waking up again are very minimal.

This, again, ties in nicely with Ken Msonda’s sounding like a gangster. This is organized crime of a level we do need to get rid of immediately. And how does the government react? Slow, slow, slow until Joyce Banda reveals she knows the assailants and why they did so.

But then nothing happens for a good two days. This could have given the criminals time to get away, or cover their tracks. Then three arrests are made. But we know how arrests go: influential or cash rich people somewhat duck or if arrest get out on bail quicker than they came in and then the case perhaps end there. Think of Peter Mutharika, who was arrested for treason. A crime that carries the death penalty, and mind you, he was let out on bail, and has never been put on trial for this till to date.

Late President Bingu wa Mutharika followed a similar practice with his predecessor Bakili Muluzi: arrested with a big fanfare, never put on trial. And with former Vice President Cassim Chilumpha: same story. Another example: in the murder of University student Robert Chasowa we have an excellent report that shows exactly who the criminals are, and who did what.

This is not necessarily judicial evidence, but more than enough for probable cause, and to put them on trial then the judiciary decides if the evidence is sufficient enough for murder conviction, or that they can only be convicted for lesser crimes. So rich people with influential connection get off without ever going on trial. On the other hand, if the suspect has no money and no connections then he can be on remand forever, there are several examples at Maula, Zomba Maximum and Chichiri Prisons where remandees are actually “serving their sentences” without being put on trial. File gets lost by some disinterested and inefficient clerks, and the person never gets out of jail. A severe violation of his human rights!

So now the Joyce Banda government has an excellent chance to improve on their dismal record: they can actually prosecute these influential “murderers and corruptors, and show that there is a little bit of justice left in the country, be it for high up civil servants.

The nation is watching; what will the police and state do to a cabinet minister and a senior PP official who have been implicated in the Mphwiyo’s shooting, as reported by Nyasa Times on September 19, 2013. At least, for once, Malawians should sing a different song.

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