Nkhotakota South East legislator Everson Makowa Mwale (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) has urged law enforcers like Malawi police detectives and State spies to monitor foreigners and put most of them on surveillance as some of them are slowly taking over the country and doing unacceptable things such as drug and human trafficking.
Makowa said in Parliament on Wednesday while contributing to a report of the National Intelligence Service Bill, which seeks to amend some provision in the Bill—gazetted on May 26 2017.
“Our security organisations invest their time in monitoring us, especially us parliamentarians, leaving foreigners who are doing undesirable things like human trafficking and drug trafficking,” said Mwale.
The lawmaker further warned that Malawians will one day wake up being ruled by foreigners because of the way they have infiltrated the country.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislator and the current chairperson of the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee Maxwell Thyolera presented the report on the Bill which support the establishment of what is to be called the National Intelligence Service (NIS)—currently called the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB)—law enforcement authority.
Lawmakers debating the Billl fear that certain clauses that might easily turn the spy agency into abuse of covert power condemning its sweeping powers they warn could be used to crack down on political opponents and stifle civil liberties.
The Bill seeks to outline duties, functions and powers of NIS, in addition to regulating its administration.
NIB was established in 2001 during former President Bakili Muluzi’s era and over the years, it has come under attack for meddling in politics primarily targeting opposition politicians.
During one-party rule of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), there was the Special Branch which also operated without an Act of Parliament, but conducted its functions under the Malawi Police.
According to the proposed Bill, the NIS director general will have powers to apply from the magistrate court a warrant to enable the institution “perform any of its functions”.
The key functions and duties of NIS will, among others, include gathering, evaluating, correlating, interpreting, investigating, disseminating and storing information for detecting and identifying of threats to the security of the nation.
The warrant will give NIS powers to enter any place or obtain access to anything and search for or remove, examine or record in any manner the information, material, record or document, which human rights advocates say will be an infringement on individual lives’ privacy.
The law will also make NIS an independent State institution and shall report directly to the President who may delegate some or all of his powers under the Act to a Cabinet minister.
Further, it will give the President powers to appoint the director general and his or her deputy on terms and conditions as he or she may determine.
However, while the delegated minister shall annually submit a report on the activities of the service to the defence and security committee of Parliament, the same law empowers the minister or the NIS director general not to “produce before Parliament any document or other evidence” as certified by the director general.
Meanwhile, the debate to the Bill was suspended at committee stage to review clause five which bars anyone with a political background to be appointed director of the spy organisation.
Until recently, the bureau was headed by Nicholas Dausi (before his appointment as Information Minister), who is a senior ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but he was a former officer of the defunct Malawi Young Pioneers and served as bodyguard to the first president of Malawi, Dr. Kamuzu Banda.
The current chief spy if former policeman and also ex immigration chief Elvis Thodi.
The proposed law seeks to define powers, functions and duties, besides regulating the administration and control of the bureau.
The spy organisation also help with vetting investigations for persons who hold or may hold posts that require higher levels of scrutiny; for example those whose appointment is subject to formal security clearance or those who may have access to sensitive or classified.
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