Malawi: Analyst Says Parliament Has an Obligation to Reject Mwapatsa As IG - Calls for Reforms in Appointment of Police Chief

30 September 2019

The need for Malawi Parliament to reject the appointment of Duncan Mwapatsa as Inspector General of Malawi is now an obligation rather than a choice if the post-May elections events are anything to go by, a governance expert and commentator has said.

President Peter Mutharika named the interim Inspector General of Malawi Police Service to replace Rodney Jose, who has gone on holiday ahead of his retirement in October.

Parliament is set to discuss his appointment this week to confirm or reject him.

Civil society organisations have been lobbying Parliament to reject Mwapasa, saying his appointment would compromise the independence of the security agency because he is a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sympathiser.

Commenting on the matter, governance expert Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that it doesn't require one to be a political, legal or security analyst to appreciate how the Malawi Police Service has in recent times been deeply captured by the DPP under the watch of both Jose and Mwapatsa.

"It would be a typical case of betrayal to public interest and indeed a reward for impunity if Malawi Parliament proceed to confirm Mwapatsa as IG," Munthali said.

He said beyond the call for rejection of Mwapats, it is important that Parliament prioritised reforms in the appointment of Inspector General of Police for posterity sake.

"The problem is two folds. On one hand is our continued failure to fully reform the appointing powers of the Inspector General of Police. While some have argued that there is nothing wrong with the current arrangement where the President appoints subject to Parliament approval, in practice it is the President who has much powers to limit the scope from which Parliament can approve from.

" At the end of the day, we have seen the President and the ruling party bringing their own people and often using their numerical advantage in Parliament and in some cases bribing some independent MPs and opposition to approve their stooge," said Munthali.

He pointed out that the President has "absolute powers" to determine the people to be presented before Parliament for approval.

"And the criteria for such appointments has often not been based on merit or public interest but rather vested political interests," he noted.

Munthali said as long as the appointing authority is retained in the Presidency, the country shouldn't expect any serious reforms to work.

He said Police should be professional by serving all Malawians by refraining from being seen as an arm of the ruling party.

Munthali said the Police in recent demonstrations has been acting more like a ruling party military arm.

"The selective manner in which the Police has handled some political violence during the campaign era in the process shielding those connected to the ruling party has left a lot to be desired. All this coupled by the failure of the Police to ably control the large crowds during demonstrations in the process leading them to unnecessarily firing teargas against protesters has led to a decline in as far as the public trust in Police is concerned."

Munthali said Malawi needs an IG who is not only merit based appointed but also one who commands respect across political, social divide.

"Such an IG must not only be no-partisan but also seen to be non partisan. The new IG will need- amongst his or her priorities invest tremendously in restoration of Police's public image and trust."

He said posterity will judge the current crop of MPs harshly for allowing impunity triumph over democracy through confirming an appointment whose ultimate goal is to reinforce the reign of terror rather than serving the public if they decide to go against public interest.

"Malawi is at a crossroad, and can't afford to degenerate to a police state."

Mwapasa comes from Thyolo, a DPP stronghold. He first served as guard commander for former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika.

Shortly after Bingu's death April 2012, he was posted from State House to Rumphi Police as officer-in-charge.

Mwapasa was one of the 11 people detained on treason charges during Joyce Banda's regime and was later indicted by the police. The incumbent named him his guard commander in 2014 and promoted him to deputy IG responsible for administration in 2015.

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