Writes, Peter Makosah, a former journalist and now a UK trained and based lawyer.
It was on February 13, 2001. A day that will forever be etched on my mind. I escaped death from the jaws of the regime.
I was an intern at Daily Times. I was a Journalism and Media Studies student at The University of Malawi, The Polytechnic.
This time, I was also working for the Malawi Police Service as a Deputy National Spokesperson and an Editor for the Malawi Police Magazine.
I was placed on the Investigation Desk with Mabvuto Banda, Mc Donald Chapalapata, Penelope Paliani and Agent Zero Limbani Moya.
On this day, the Daily Times carried my investigative news report on the Chiradzulo Serial Killers. The regime top dogs were connected to the murders, the investigations established. I had documentary evidence.
At 9:00 am prompt, the Police invaded Daily Times and arrested me alongside Mabvuto Banda, Mc Donald Chapalapata, Limbani Moya, the deputy editor, Rankin Nyekanyeka and the editor, Wallace Mposa. The Editor-in-Chief Mike Kamwendo arrested himself and joined us.
I, and the others, was taken to Southern Region Police Headquarters at Chichiri where the Deputy Inspector General of Police Joseph Aironi and Commissioner of Police for the South, Milward Chikwamba were waiting to interrogate us.
We were put in separate rooms.
The Inspector General of Police, Joseph Aironi, who was my boss as a policeman, came to interrogate me in a room where I was kept.
It was a very short interrogation.
Mr. Joseph Aironi offered me freedom. But at a price and an offer. He asked me to handover to him any evidence that I gathered during my investigtions and implicate Mabvuto Banda as the one writing “bad things” against the government – the UDF government.
Mr. Aoroni then told me that I cooperate with him, he would release me and promised to promote me two ranks above as Police officer.
I was a Sub-Inspector of Police
He emphasised that The Daily Times were only using me as a policeman.
Mr. Aironi got very angry. He told me he will not be responsible for my security and safety as I was stubborn and stupid.
He walked out.
Moments later, another senior ranked police officer, A superintendent of Police Mr. Rodney Jose who later rose to become the Inspector General of Police, came in and told him that I will be taken to Lilongwe, National Police Headquarters for further interrogation.
I quickly relayed the message to Mr. Mike Kamwendo. He informed our lawyer the late Meyer Chisanga SC (May he continue resting in power) and Mr. Chisanga asked for a police bail for us but Mr Aironi refused, saying the crime I have had committed was a felony.
I was charged with “Publishing false news likely to cause alarm to the country.”
Mr. Chisanga tried in vain to get me and Mabvuto Banda a police bail to no avail.
Mr. Aironi was on a constant phone with someone who I later learnt it was the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Mr Fahad Assani. At one point, I also heard Joseph Aironi speaking to someone he was addressing as “His Excellency Sir” and at that time only two people could be addressed as His Excellency Sir, Bakili Muluzi and Dr. Cassim Chilumpha.
I don’t know which one of the two Mr. Aironi was talking to. But your guess is as good as mine.
Counsel Chisanga had to think outside the box and act fast as now the tide was against the time.
The courts were closed as it was now way past working hours. Time was running out and that is exactly what they (the state) wanted.
Mr. Chisanga made a few phone calls and finally said he has found a court to converge for a bail hearing.
The time was approaching midnight.
The police argued that there was no way a court can give anyone a bail as they (the courts) were closed but Mr. Chisanga told them that a court is not the building but the proceedings.
It was Dr. Chifundo Kachale (then Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate as he was) of all the people in the judiciary who braved up and defied the state’s sinister motives to have me and the others transported to Lilongwe the Evison Matafale way.
The court sat, heard the bail application and bail was granted. The learned Magistrate, Chifundo Kachale had a chance to side with the State, got himself stacks of cash and a promotion as a judge but chose to side with justice.
The State went to Chiradzulu and threaten one of my sources, Traditional Authority Likoswe to denounce the story on MBC radio as fake cooked up and that he was never interviewed by anyone from Daily Times.
But there was a problem for him and the State.
I had everything recorded and duplicates were done and in safe hands (the lawyers) ready for Court proceedings.
A court date for a full trial was set. We were ready to defend ourselves and prove beyond reasonable doubt that our story was neither false nor a fig of our imagination.
Upon realising that we had concrete evidence, the State, through the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Fahad Assani prayed to the court that the State wanted to “discontinue” the case because the president ( Bakili Muluzi) does not want to muzzle the press as he was a champion of democracy.
Fahad Assani informed the court that the State President had forgiven me and the others.
Lawyer Chisanga argued to the court hat a case cannot be “discontinued” by the State but can be withdrawn in its entirety on the basis of no evidence.
Chifundo Kachale agreed with Chisanga that the word “discontinue” and outrightly threw out the case and told Mr. Fahad Assani that the State President has no powers to forgive people who are suspected to have committed a crime.
This, Ladies and Gentlemen, was Mr. Chifundo Kachale when he was a Magistrate before he attained his PhD let alone appointed as a Judge.
Later that night, the BBC had a story that Malawi President had forgiven journalists for writing false news likely to cause alarm and public fear and Presidential Secretary Willie Zingani was speaking on behalf of his boss, Malawi One.
A few days later, Mr. Joseph Aironi transferred me from Soche Police where I was temporary based while studying at Polytechnic to Tengani Police Sub Police Unit as Officer in-Charge.
Days later, my transfer to Nsanje was reversed. A new transfer was put in place. I was to go to Bangwe Police Station as Station Officer.
The next day, I resigned, and joined the Nation Newspapers.
Dr. Chifundo Kachale is a noble man and an intelligent judge. I vouch for him to handle the forthcoming Fresh Presidential Elections with nobility, due diligence, fairness and above all else in tandem with the law and the principles of natural justice.
Our votes are safe and secure.
I, so, believe.