A prominent Malawi Congress Party (MCP) official, Ulemu Msungama, has been charged with sedition over a conversation on WhatsApp that purportedly talks about how President Peter Mutharika could be toppled, police said on Monday.
Msungama—who was being held at Kanengo Police Station in Lilongwe before being moved to Area 30 police headquarters—was formally told of his sedition charge after his arrest on Sunday.
National Police Spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa has confirmed that Msungama has been charged with Sedition contrary to Section 51 of the Penal Code.
Gondwa said he could not comment much about the matter “to avoid obstructing the investigations.”
He, however, said Msungama has been released on police bail after being taken to Area 30 Police headquarters in the capital city for further questioning.
Police spokesman also confirmed hunt for MCP spokeswoman Jessie Kabwila and its legal advisor Lewis Chakhwantha on similar charges as those of Msungama.
Kabwila and Chakwantha are also members of Parliament (MPs), with the former representing Salima North West while the latter is legislator for Lilongwe Rural South West.
Meanwhile, Peoples Party (PP) acting president Uladi Mussa, secretary general Ibrahim Matola, Kamlepo Kalua, and Ralph Jooma visited Kanengo police station in the morning on Monday to give their moral support to Msungama on arrest widely condemned as “politically motivated.”
“We came here to visit Msungama who is a victim of political persecution and intimidation tactics,” said Mussa.
“Malawians will never again allow to be subjected to dictatorship. They will prevail, trust me,” he added.
Msungama stood on the MCP ticket for the Lilongwe City North East parliamentary election in the May 2014 polls.
He lost the election to Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Bentry Namasasu, but is challenging the results in court.
Meanwhile, social and political commentator Stanley Onjezani Kenani took to his Facebook page to condemn the arbitrary arrests, saying government wants to deflect attention from economic woes.
“Professor Mutharika wants a coup so bad. He wants something that people can talk about, other than his incompetence. So he has started tasking his agents to sniff Whatsapp groups, Facebook posts, anything that will help him cry wolf. But it won’t work,” wrote Kenani who is also a poet of refute.
“Malawians know it is silly to arrest people like Msungama for a chat in a Whatsapp group. Besides, whoever edited that chat was so dumb he forgot to put the dates in chronological sense. So what we have is a text sent on 29 January 2016 being responded to on 27 January 2016. How? That’s what happens when you put into intelligence bureaus people who are as dumb as a rock,” he added.
And Malawian flagship newspaper, The Daily Times in its editorial comment titled “It’s a democracy, not a police state” condemned the arrest, calling it “primitive operation.”
The paper called the seditious arrests as part of business as usual “mundane script”.
“Malawi is at crossroads and needs to encourage free speech so that the dominant views can survive and offer solutions,” reads the editorial.
It said Police should not be used as political tool and as weapons against political rivals.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :