Malawian pastors want Veep released

Malawian Vice President Cassim Chilumpha has won the sympathy of the clergy who are demanding his unconditional release from house arrest...

The clergy, who belong to the Pastors Voice Association, are asking the government to free Chilumpha, who was arrested on April 28 last year on treason charges, because “detaining the Vice President of a nation for a full one year was cruel and inhuman.”

“Pastors have noted with great concern that the Vice President Dr Cassim Chilumpha who was elected through the ballot box alongside Dr Bingu wa Mutharika has clocked one year under arrest on treason charges, which the current government said had overwhelming evidence.

“Free Chilumpha if the said overwhelming evidence can not come out. This brings to shame all learned persons in the matters of law. All along we have been singing a song that ‘justice delayed is justice denied’,” says the association’s executive president pastor Thaulo Phiri.

He says keeping Chilumpha under arrest had robed him of the chance do business to support his family adding “today it’s Chilumpha tomorrow it may be you: God Almighty knows. Malawians are watching and following this trial.”

But Patricia Kaliati, the Minister of Information who doubles as a government spokesperson, attacked the pastors for meddling in issues that are pending in court.

“Who are these pastors that do not understand court procedures? If anything they are pastors they just have to pray that the courts rule in their favour,”
says Kaliati adding that the Veep’s case could not be determined outside the courts.

Chilumpha was arrested in April last year alongside businessmen Yusuf Matumula and Rashid Nembo on allegations of plotting to assassinate Mutharika.

Government alleges Chilumpha hired two assassins, Graham Alistair Minnaar, a South African and a Malawian living in South Africa, Thomas Elias Ndhlovu.

Mutharika, who ascended to the presidency in May 2004 on a United Democratic Front ticket, ditched the party to form his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

While many senior UDF prominent figures including cabinet ministers joined the new party, Chilumpha and a handful others remained in the UDF.

Chilumpha says he is being persecuted because he refused to join the president’s party.

Apart from the treason case, the state has also shown interest to pursue the education scam case in which millions of kwacha went down the drain through dubious contracts while Chilumpha was Education Minister.

Government also accuses the Vice President of not attending cabinet meetings for no proper reason.

To that effect, last year the President wrote a letter to Chilumpha accepting what he termed his “constructive resignation” from his position.

The case, currently pending in court created a constitutional crisis with some lawyers arguing that the President has no mandate to fire his deputy while others concur with Mutharika that Chilumpha had indeed constructively resigned.

Chilumpha says he has been unable to attend cabinet meetings because his office is underfunded.

It is one of the cases that have become common in Africa where presidents and their deputies appear not to be seeing eye to eye, with similar cases in South Africa and Nigeria.