John Kapito, the former chairperson of Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), has said his fights with the late president Bingu wa Mutharika were the most exciting of his times at the state-funded human rights body.
But he admitted he had more tough times at the commission than fun ones as he was dealing with a president who was lied to and misled by his advisors. Mutharika died of cardiac arrest on April 5.
Kapito told The Sunday Times in an ex¬clusive interview that Mutharika had become "combative and disliked by many Malawians" in the last months before his death because of the wrong advice that he was getting from peo¬ple that surrounded him.
"The most exciting moments were my per¬sonal fights with Mutharika. I never gave him space to roll and rant over me. I challenged him personally on matters that I felt were important to the promotion of human rights," said Kapito.
Kapito's term of office, alongside five other commissioners', expired last week after a two-year stint.
In his recollections, Kapito said he had been equally disappointed with the continued wrong advice that some government officials fed the late president against him agitating for his removal or that he should be asked to resign on his own.
He said he was disappointed that the very people who misled and lied to Mutharika are still in command in President Joyce Banda's government.
"I really do not know whether there was any personal relationship between me and the late President only that I felt that he hated me so much and he expressed this openly to me but I also felt that he was a man who was misled and lied to by those around him.
"They made him believe that he was a god and most such wrong pieces of advice were purely done in return for personal favours. They never helped the president. It's unfortunate that these people are still around and in command today."
Kapito, who doubled as executive direc¬tor of the Consumers association of Malawi (Cama), said it was also "hell" to work with other government structures because they, by constitutional provision, are also answerable to the president, which he considers a weakness.
"That's the unfortunate part and weakness of our constitution and democracy and it was hell working with many government agencies," he said.
A target of threats and vilification from the execu¬tive machinery during his time as chair, Kapito said his wife always encouraged him to go on with the work of speaking for the people on human rights. But his children felt somewhat insecure, he said.
"I was responsible for the pain and discomfort that my family went through and I always said to them that in life someone has to pay a price. Whether they believed that or not was another thing but this is the only job I know best.
"The good thing about it was that they shared the concerns I was raising and supported my positions and sometimes they gave me ideas," he said.
Soon after Mutharika's death, Kapito revealed that former deputy minister Nicholas Dausi had threatened to have him "eliminated" in the presence of Mutharika.
But Dausi refused to comment on the claim when Malawi News contacted him on the matter.
At some point the former president said in pub¬lic that Kapito was agitating to take over the presi¬dency from him.
One of the well-publicised of Kapito troubles with government was when he was arrested two days before he left for a United Nations human rights con¬ference in Geneva, Switzerland in March.
Police arrested him allegedly for being found with illegally acquired forex, a charge that was later changed to being found with seditious documents.
But critics of the Mutharika government said Kapito had been arrested on the fear that he would use the conference to tell the world how terrible things had become in Malawi on the human rights front.
Kapito was eventually released and attended the conference where Malawi was likened to the vi¬olence-ridden Syria in terms of the collapse of human rights standards.