The idea of multiple re-arresting of suspects happens only in failed states and dictatorial regimes – Professor of Law Danwood M Chirwa
Written By Danwood M Chirwa
The new government in Malawi asked for time and it has been given, but this cannot wait. The many arrests and investigations of plunderers that are taking place are a welcome development.
They must continue and expeditiously proceed to prosecution where there is enough evidence. So far, the arrests and investigations have concentrated on foot soldiers. We hope more higher-ranking officials will be included in the net of suspects and accused persons. There must not be sacred cows.
Within legal circles there is some disquiet around two issues: lack of coordination or concrete plan for dealing with the scale of criminality at hand; and lack of respect for due process.
The first can lead to failed or botched prosecutions, an outcome which is clearly not in the public interest. The government is yet to give clear and unequivocal priority to combating corruption and state plunder.
It can do this by, without delay, making key appointments in the criminal justice sector and committing more resources to crime fighting agencies.
The status quo cannot handle these cases.
Of particular concern is that some key players in this field are not exerting their authority to coordinate the investigations and ensure that everything is done in accordance with the law. The price to pay for this sloppiness might be too high for the republic.
The second concern arises from the conduct of the police who seem too eager to correct their past ineptitude and complicity by playing to the tune of the mob rather than following the law while exercising their responsibilities.
The idea of arresting, re-arresting and re-re-arresting a suspect happens only in failed states and dictatorial regimes. Malawi is governed by laws and has a constitution, all of which must be respected at all times. Even the most devious suspect or accused has due process rights that must be respected. The police cannot render court orders worthless by endlessly re-arresting suspects or accused persons.
Danwood M Chirwa
It is partly because of concerns about disrespect for the rule of law that Malawians voted the DPP government out of power. The police and other crime fighting agencies have a duty to act within the law and, above all, to ensure that investigations and prosecutions are pursued to their logical end in accordance with the law.
Danwood Mzikenge Chirwa holds a PhD from the University of the Western Cape, an LLM from the University of Pretoria, and an LLB (Hons) from the University of Malawi. Currently, he holds a full professorship at the University of Cape Town.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the writer’s and do not reflect the views of The Maravi Post or Publisher.