Coming late to a party intending to downplay the significance of the Commission of Inquiry President Chakwera instituted to investigate the violent arrest of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Martha Chizuma, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Executive Secretary, Habiba Osman, wrote on her Twitter handle chastising the President:
“You would not need Commission of inquiries if you, Sir, Lazarus Chakwera, were advised accordingly that constitutional bodies like the Office of Ombudsman and Human Rights Commission if funded as per their mandates, are to investigate human rights violations. But your advisors misled you. Sadly.”
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is established by the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi under section 129 as well as the Human Rights Commission Act No 27 of 1998 of the Laws of Malawi. While drawing its resources from the national vault, the MHCR is established as an independent human rights watchdog, enabling officers of the institution to act without executive accountability.
However, the current MHRC Executive Secretary, who is opposition-oriented stretches this independence to assume the institution into an opposition entity that fails to recognize the responsibility, authority, and status of the President. While indirectly addressing the State President, Osman resisted recognizing President Chakwera by his presidency title and preferred calling him “Sir”.
While some commentators faulted Osman for lacking the courtesy to “properly advice the President according to her wisdom when the Commission of Inquiry was just instituted other than waiting upon conclusion of its task” some described her sentiments as a mark of indiscipline coming from an officer of a constitutional body.
On the other hand, President Chakwera has appeared to the party with enlightening remarks that have exposed reasoning deficiency in the MHRC Executive Secretary whose remarks against the President’s institution of the Commission of Inquiry were dished in her personal capacity on her personal Twitter handle, evading the official scrutiny of the MHCR.
During his National Address which took place on Wednesday, 18th January 2023, President Chakwera utilized the preliminaries of his statement to address the side issue that was created by the MHRC Executive Secretary, educating her that to remove any shade of doubt or suspicions into the findings, he saw it fit to investigate the conduct of state agents using an apparatus that is not linked to the state.
The President further highlighted that in order “to protect the independence of this inquiry”, he “rejected any suggestion to give the task to a state organ or to appoint state officials as serving members of the Commission”.
“Before I get into the substance of the report, I want to state that I wanted this investigation to be independent of State involvement because it was an inquiry into the conduct of State agents,” President Chakwera said.
“I did this by ensuring that the membership of the Commission was made up of individuals who do not work in Government, individuals who have long distinguished themselves as men and women of integrity and objectivity, individuals who have a reputation for speaking truth to power, and individuals who have no incentive to bend the truth for anyone,” he further remarked.
When you hear such public officers as Habiba Osman, should one believe the sentiments in the street that the government system is still infested with Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) cadets?