Ntata trashes Malawi treason charges: Calls for Chiume’s arrest

Former presidential legal advisor Allan Ntata has has said there is a lot that is missing in the Commission of Inquiry report to support criminal convictions and expressed surprise at his inclusion among the dozen people charged with treason over an alleged coup plot in the aftermath of the death of former Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Ntata currently in the United Kingdom where he went after the death of Mutharika  was mentioned in court when the 11 were formally charged, bringing to 12 the number of those accused of trying to prevent Malawi’s vice president Joyce Banda from becoming president after the president’s death last April.

Late president’s brother, Peter Mutharika, interdicted State Chief Secretart Bright Msaka and former minister Goodall Gondwe had suggested to Army Commander Gen. Henry Odillo that the army “just take over”. But Odillo told the Commission “he was uncomfortable with the suggestion for it was not provided for in the Constitution”

But Ntata argues that the treason case against opposition leaders in Malawi is President Banda’s weak and feeble attempt to divert people’s attention from her desperate loss of focus and direction and her failure to respond to the economic suffering because of her ill-advised policies.

Ntata: Why not arresting Chiume
Ntata: Why not arresting Chiume

“There is even less basis to support the idea of arresting of only certain individuals and not others if any arrests are deemed appropriate at all,” Ntata said, 39, who left Malawi for the UK even before Mutharika was buried. But he dismissed assertion that he is a fugitive.

Ntata, who has just published a book entitled: “Trappings of Power: Political Leadership in Africa” which analyses the Mutharika presidency, faulted the way the Banda administration has reacted to the findings of the Bingu death inquiry report.

He also accused the regime of shielding former minister of justice, Ephraim Mganda Chiume for the role he played in the transitional plot.

“It should therefore follow that there is certainly no justification for charging anyone else with treason. These then are simply political arrests for imaginary offences based on conjecture and the popular emotion of a largely politically partisan crowd rather than offences based in law and legal process,” he said.

Ntata said he is not afraid of treason charges and that he will m ake a decision “whether to come or not when they ask me.”

Explaining his role during the days preceding Mutharika’s sudden death, Ntata said: “My role in the saga was to give legal opinion, especially with regards to the presidential referral which I had filed with the constitutional court.”

The former aide also said there are more pressing non-political matters and recommendations made in the report that are very important and need to be addressed with urgency by the government.

“Those that have read the report with the objectivity…agree that the political crisis that is discussed in the report exposes an urgent need for the Malawian constitution to be reviewed to ensure that such controversies do not even arise in similar situations in the future.

“As the Inquiry Report pointed out, the death on a president while in office was an unprecedented even in Malawian history and everything that happened reflected the fact that the nation and the government had never before considered that that such an even could occur,” he said.

Ntata also said the report recommended some important steps to be taken with regard to the medical care afforded to presidents and top-level government officials.

“The logical expectation was an immediate announcement from the government that to avoid the kind of tragedy that befell Bingu to befall any other sitting president in the future, government would do all in its power to build a state of the art military hospital.

“But the very first thing the Joyce Banda government has focused on as far as the report is concerned is the political content,” he observed.

Other former officials netted during unprecedented arrests this week include Kaliati, former Local Government Minister Henry Mussa, former Youth Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda, former Health Minister Jean Kalirani, former Presidential Affairs Minister Nicholas Dausi, former deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa and former Presidential Guard Commander Duncan Mwapasa.

Treason in Malawi is punishable by death which can be commuted to life.

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