CONFESSIONS OF A PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL COUNSEL: OF THE MIDNIGHT SIX AND TREASON CHARGES (COPIED)

On 6 April 2012, I was in Blantyre when I
was asked to immediately travel to the office
of the Attorney General in Lilongwe for an
emergency meeting. When I arrived, the
Attorney General informed me that President
Bingu wa Mutharika had died, and that the
Minister of Justice, Ephraim Chiume, who
was present in the room had instructions
for us. Chiume then informed me that he
had instructions from the Cabinet that the
Attorney General together with me and
other government lawyers should look at
how the Vice President could be prevented
from taking over. Chiume repeatedly
emphasized that we were to use any means
necessary. Upon discussing the matter, we
informed the Minister that we were not
going to do anything illegal but that there
was merit in trying to get an injunction
against the immediate succession of the vice
president to the presidency.
The reasoning here was that there was
already pending in the constitutional court a
presidential referral which was questioning
the legitimacy of the Vice President
maintaining her position in light of conduct
which seemed to suggest that she had
resigned.
The legal documents for the injunction were
frantically put together, but astonishingly,
when Chiume was asked to sign the
affidavits, he declined and suggested that
Goodall Gondwe, then Minister of Energy
and Mining, and DPP first Vice President,
should sign it. The significance of his refusal
was to come to light later as he was the first
Minister to defect from the DPP to the Joyce
Banda’s PP. Even more revealing was the
fact that Chiume now started pointing
fingers at his former ministerial colleagues
in the DPP, claiming that they had hatched a
plot to prevent Banda from taking over the
presidency in preference to Mutharika’s
brother, Peter.
Later that same night, I was invited to a
meeting that was taking place in the
conference room at the Office of the
President and Cabinet at Capital Hill.
Assembled there were all cabinet ministers
and other senior government and DPP
officials. They wanted an update on the
status of the injunction since the Attorney
General was busy elsewhere. As some of the
individuals present were uninformed about
the injunction, I explained what the legal
issues were and why the legal team felt an
application for an injunction was justified in
the circumstances.
In this meeting, it was observed that
rumours were fuelling growing
apprehension and tension in the country as
no official announcement had been made to
the nation about the condition of the
President. It was decided that a statement
be made by the Minister of Information,
Patricia Kaliati, informing the Country that
the President had been flown to South
Africa and that as of that point there was no
need to discuss succession matters until
such a time as it was officially announced
that President Mutharika had died. The
statement was composed by a group of
individuals that included several cabinet
ministers and some ranking officials in the
office of the president and cabinet. It was
read out on Television by the Minister of
Information, Patricia Kaliati, who was
supported in the press briefing by 5 other
ministers. These Minister later came to
known as the infamous MIDNIGHT SIX.
In the end, the attorney general was unable
to find a panel of judges to hear the matter
and grant the injunction, and the idea of
obtaining an injunction was abandoned.
Later, when Joyce Banda was sworn in as
President, she arrested Peter Mutharika and
a few other former ministers and
government officials and charged them with
treason. My own name was on the list of
those accused although I had left for the UK
and was reading for my PhD by this time.
But Politicians being what they are, it
appears that in their discussions as they felt
the discomforts of prison cells and the
inconveniences of the treason trial, the
ministers blamed all their plight on the
absentee legal counsel, convincing Peter
Mutharika and others that I was the reason
for their arrests.
Today, I have become the scapegoat for the
younger Mutharika and his ministers’ arrest
and prison ordeal. Perhaps the trauma
needed a victimin order to heal, someone
they can point to for the plight they suffered
and also the perfect excuse to accuse me of
various things simply because I happened to
be elsewhere when they were arrested.
Having worked with Malawian politicians, I
am not surprised. In Malawian politics, it
helps to massage the president and to give
him someone to blame for his tribulations!
But, truth is truth. It is incontrovertibl e.
Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it,
but in the end, there it is!

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