Vice-President, Saulos Chilima, has said Malawi needs a serious soul-searching and change the way justice is delivered to people.
Chilima said this Wednesday during the opening of a two-day Tilitonse Fund Conference in Lilongwe just after listening to a moving presentation on the Kafantayeni homicide cases rehearing project that the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and partners have been implementing since 2014.
The Vice-President said the project has shown that there is no need for the country to be spending a lot of money on prisoners.
He said if the court managed to conclude the rehearing of over 154 homicide cases within a space of three years, then the country needs to reflect on what is preventing it from rehearing and reviewing other cases that resulted in 14,000 prisoners in the country’s prisons.
As at end of the project, 154 cases have been reheard in court resulting in 112 convicts being immediately released, 41 convicts given further time to serve sentence and one life imprisonment.
Ten cases are yet to be completed but hearing started, one died before hearing, one died before judgement and there were two post-Kafantayeni cases not entitled to sentence rehearing.
Chilima said there was a motivating factor that led to the rehearing of the cases and the fact that the project was helping in decongesting prisons, there is need for the country to see what can be done to bring efficiency in the justice system.
“If it was some incentive, then there was money that was supposed to be reduced from the prisoners’ welfare to justice system. We didn’t have to spend so much. It just calls for reflection,” Chilima said.
He then said the country cannot afford to have people who assume public office and they become the law and policy unto themselves, that is, people who are answerable to nobody and unaccountable.
He said the underlying platform of Tilitonse Fund is that mind change must come.
“So the component of community empowerment under the Fund’s governance programme is most admirable,” he said.
Tilitonse Fund Programme Manager, Allan Chintedza, said the reports from the fund’s implementing partners are showing that the seven year journey has been a success.
Head of DfID in Malawi, Jen Marshall, described Tilitonse Fund as the United Kingdom’s flagship programme in Malawi and asked for sustainability of what the partners have learned.
Marshall said the political elite always ignore the needs of the poor and there is need for the people to have a voice.
“Tilitonse Fund is not about handouts or hotel conferences but ensuring that leaders are accountable and are transparent. It is not about money for services but ensuring access to information in ensuring that there is transparency and accountability,” Marshall said.
Tilitonse has since its inception in 2011 supported 127 civil society organisations and other like-minded groups to implement projects aimed at promoting increasingly inclusive, accountable and responsive governance in Malawi.