Malawi Police has released the 14 National Registration Bureau (NRB) officers who were arrested in Mzuzu after Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia, accompanied by armed police officers, disrupted their meeting to demand arrears dating back to May 2017.
Police did not take the officials to court to be formally charged but granted them bail, saying they still want to investigate the matter.
However, Police spokesma for Northern region Peter Kalaya said the 14 officers who he said were part of the meeting at Shoprite have been formally charged by the law enforcers.
“Bail is their constitutional right and since they have been formally charged we decided to release them,” said Kalaya.
“They will report back on 22nd of this month,” he said.
‘’We have charged them with two accounts, conspiracy to commit a felony and unlawful assembly but there are certain areas that we need to probe further,” Kalaya disclosed.
After being released, the NRB officials marched in the streets before being stopped by police, warning them of a fresh arrest.
Meanwhile, flagship newspaper Daily Times has condemned Home Affairs Minister Grace Chiumia for ambushing the NRB staff over their meeting and ordering the arbitrary arrests.
The newspaper said in an editorial comment that there is no justifiable reason in arresting NRB staff members who gathered peacefully to discuss matters affecting their work and livelihood.
“When Cabinet ministers, most of whom tow party lines, start barking instructions at the so-called reformed National Police Service to arrest innocent citizens, we should be very afraid because, next time, it will be people with dissenting views who shall be the victims,” the paper said.
The editorial comment said Minister Chiumia’s decision is “a smack in the face of police independence.”
Reads the comment: “ All along, we were made to believe that police do not act under duress, or on instructions from politicians, but, time and again, we are reminded that we still have elements that want to treat us as toys. This happens in cases where government officials, who have no knowledge about law enforcement, start barking orders.”
The paper said Malawi Police should be independent of political interference so that they can enjoy the trust of all Malawians.
According to the paper, Malawi risks turning into a police state.
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