Warrant of arrest on Mtambo, Trapence, Sembereka is for intention to seal State Residences

By Duncan Mlanjira

The warrant of arrest that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) have obtained on the three leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence and Rev. MacDonald Sembereka is relation to HRDC’s intention to seal State Residences. 

So far MPS has arrested Trapence and Rev. Sembeleka while Mtambo, according to the police, is on the run. 

Mtambo at large

The three suspects will be brought before the court of law to be dealt with in accordance with the law. In a press statement issued on Monday, March 9, says by announcing their intention to seal State Residences which they made on Friday, March 6 during their press briefing at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, the three committed an offence under section 124 of the Penal Code.


“The three suspects are fully aware that section 103 of the Police Act prohibits any demonstrations or assemblies within a hundred metres from state residences unless the same have been permitted by the State President,” says the statement by MPS spokesperson Senior Superintendent James Kadadzera.

“This means that no one can seal a state residence unless they breach the provisions of section 103 of the Police Act. 


“This provision has been brought to their attention previously when they attempted to demonstrate to the State Residence.”

Kadadzera further says section 124 of the Penal Code prohibits any person to incite or solicit another to break any law. 

Mutharika warns HRDC leadership

“By inciting people to seal the State Residences on 25th March 2020, the three committed an offence under section 124 of the Penal Code.”

The arrests come just hours after President Peter Mutharika warned at a political rally in Blantyre that he will deal with the grouping for their plans to make Malawi ungovernable.

Mutharika warned HRDC that they risk action from the police if they dare get close to the State Residences on May 25, 2020.

HRDC leadership

Meanwhile, Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) is demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the two HRDC leaders, saying it has reasonable apprehension and fear for the lives of the two given that anything is possible to be done against them while in police custody such as torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment as well as possibilities of slow poisoning.

“This is more so, in the context where the President of Malawi, HE Peter Arthur Mutharika has publicly declared HRDC as a terrorist organisation and at a rally today, the President alleged to have instructed police and members of his Democratic People’s Party to come hard on HRDC leadership.”

One of the demonstrations organized by HRDC

SAHRDN asks authorities in Malawi to respect the Constitution as well as the African Charter on Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998.

This section, according to SAHRDN, recognised the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.


SAHRDN quotes Article 5: “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at national and international levels: “to meet or assemble peacefully”.

Article 12 (2) is also quoted: “The state shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto of de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referee to in the present Declaration.”