Call to abolish presidential insult law in Malawi

There are calls for the repeal of a controversial provision of the law  making insulting the Malawi President a crime punishable by prison sentence or a fine.

Kanyongolo:  Need to review presidential insult laws

Kanyongolo: Need to review presidential insult laws

University of Malawi law professor Edge Kanyongolo  and Media and Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter chairperson Thom Khanje have argued that individuals should not be criminalised for merely expressing themselves.

Kanyongolo said during Daybreak Malawi radio program on Capital FM on Thursday that Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right to be enjoyed by all citizens.

“ In democracy we should be very accommodating of criticising,” he said.

“Laws such as these [insulting the President] have no place in a democracy that guarantees freedom of expression,” Kanyongolo stated.

He said by criminalising ‘ insulting the President’ will threaten even newspaper cartoonists for their satirical art work.

“Every citizen is supposed to be protected. We should not make Heads of State as demi-god. There are no special laws for the president. We are all equal before the law,” said Kanyongolo.

Commenting on the same, Khanje said Freedom of Expression is a hallmark of democracy as its unfettered enjoyment contributes to functional democracy that encourages citizen participation for good governance and accountability.

“The constitution guarantees freedom of expression which include criticising the President,” said Khanje.

He advocated for the repeal of sections of the penal code that impede the enjoyment of freedom of expression.

The calls comes after Nyasa Times reported that Balaka First Grade Magistrate Court has ordered a 60-year-old man to pay a fine of K3, 000 or in default serve three months imprisonment with hard labour for insulting President Peter Mutharika and denigrating him.

According to Police Prosecutor Constable Christopher Nyirongo, the convict Alinafe Paul, committed an offence on August 31 at Kanyumbaka village in the district when he found a grader grading the earth road past his village.

He accused the President of grading the earth road during the dry season which was making a lot of dust. Paul has since paid the fine to avoid jail term.

Arrests of citizens for insulting or undermining the authority of President have been happening even during the rule of Joyce Banda, Bingu wa Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi.

During Joyce Banda rule, two women from Mwanza,  26-year-old Eliza Kusheni and Dorothy Ng’onga, 24, were arrested them for insulting President and her ruling People’s Party (PP) after they refused to receive PP cloth and dance for the President.

And in Bingu wa Mutharika regime, four security guards of the international firm GS4 were arrested in Lilongwe and charged with insulting the president after a driver of the ruling party reported them to the police.

Many rights campaigners have argued that protecting Head of State or public officials from criticism solely because of their function or status cannot be reconciled with modern democracy and violates freedom of expression.

They argue that exposure to increased criticism of public officials is an inevitable consequence of a career in politics, and freedom of political debate is integral to the contemporary concept of a democratic society.

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54 thoughts on “Call to abolish presidential insult law in Malawi”

  1. Lottie says:

    Please educate the simple minds – is the professor of Law saying that insulting a fellow human being is right? Can we be told what the arrested victim actually said (word to word) so that we can characterise the message. If insulting is acceptable, so anybody can insult Bwana Kanyongolo and he will be smiling for the insult – my foot!!!

  2. george says:

    kutukwana mkwabwino et? then, mbolozanu azimai nonse!!! and nyinizanu azibambo nonse!!!!!!!!!

  3. If it was in another country I don’t think people can sit and watch being threated by Government which is there because of the same people

  4. Nathan says:

    What? Has the DPP goverment gone mad? We do not need dictators in Malawi! We fought for this democracy so that we should have Freedom of Expression. Pitala and his fellow crooks were busy eating cakes and enjoying white prostitutes in America and Europe while we were fighting for this democracy! No, we can’t go back to dictatorship! Pitala ndi kape, chitsiru, chitserekwete, chidepente!

  5. MSANA WA PETURO says:

    Some faces of so called presidents are self-insulting. Makamaka ya uyuyu….wopanda…..kkkk

  6. jimbo says:

    This law is a throw-back to the time of Kamuzu Banda. Such laws are made by dictators. There is no place for such a law in a democracy. You can’t legislate for respect to be shown to the head of state. Respect has to be earned. Heads of state and all politicians and public figures must expect criticism and name calling, it goes with the territory. Retaining such a law in Malawi is childish nonsense.

  7. Phingo says:

    You call kutukwana ‘kunjoya? what kind of kunjoya. Damn religion of democracy! Damn!

  8. Do we have a president in Malawi, tell me what is his name????

  9. bambo says:

    Respect is needed, here in Malawi. No demcr or not but we need respect the authority that fundamental.

  10. vavlov says:

    Total bullshit. Instead of focusing on real issues Malawians as usual worship useless presidents, Why should anyone be arrested for criticizing the president if he is not performing?

  11. Charombanthu says:

    This law must go. It has no place in a democratic nation like ours. We have heard and read about insults in other democracies such as “the shower man” in which Shapiro “insulted” Jacob Zuma and Trevor Noah calling him the “spear”; Richard Nixon of the USA was referred to as “tricky dick”; Barack Obama has not been spared – a writer wrote “Somewhere in Kenya a village is missing its idiot!”. So why should someone be imprisoned for merely stating that the grader was making a lot of dust! I totally agree with the proponents for the repeal of this archaic piece of legislation which was put in place during the one-party era…

  12. belekiya says:

    Whether insult or criticism, there is no case here.

  13. Zanako says:

    Too much freedom will soon catch up with us and then it shall be too late

  14. Makwasa says:

    Retrogressive/ primitive laws in attempt to silence the critics, donors are watching.

  15. Dokiso Dumakuve says:

    Just a waste of time arresting some disgruntled citizens on trivial matters instead of developing Malawi.Has Kaliati been ever been arrested for insulting Chakwera and other politicians from opposition side.Malawian politician should concentrate in developing the backward Malawi than police wasting time listening or eavesdropping to some drunkards in Balaka insulting some incompetent professor who has failed Malawi big time.Malawi is a failed state steered by this clueless professor.Arrest me too.I live at Chimbiya.

  16. nachisale says:

    Totally agree – its stupid to have such archaic laws. A president is not God to be exalted.

  17. ras says:

    Talk development you learned people. Do you mean you sat down finishing you cup of coffee thinking this,come on guys do something sensible

  18. george says:

    dont torture citizens for simply critising & complaining of dust the grader was producing MWINANIKAGONA

  19. Reformist says:

    Insulting should be criminised, not just insulting the president but all insulting affecting anyone. There is nothing “freedom” in insulting. Insulting makes people feel small and useless. We should not use any legal or human right philosophy to normalise that kind of immoral conduct.

  20. Rodgers Banda says:

    When I came back from London, Mwanza Neno were literally naked!” tremble accompanied by ” mmanja mwa ngwazi!!” Any criticism, insult,laughter etc you vanish from the face of Malawi. Will Malawians be happy to review this by praising Mutharika as a god? In democracy we honour freedom of speech.

  21. Alungwana says:

    Abolish that law. APM must face criticism

  22. Moving copse says:

    If jesus is even today being insulted who is IBU

  23. chizamsoka munthali says:

    Khalani chete nonse ndinthawi yovota, those who are in support of the opinion that this law should be abolished please raise up your hands!! 1 2 3 4 5 6 ……………………………………… 13,999,999. Ok those that are of the contrary opinion raise your hands!!! 1 2 3 4 …………… 101. Ok people have voted in of abolishing this law, so its now up to the foolish and stupid president to act.

  24. Malawiboy says:

    Political leaders are just targets for criticisms and/or insults from disappointed citizens and should just grin and bear it. They have not been granted immunity from public opinion just because of their political status, rather they have questions to answer and positions to justify.

  25. citizen says:

    yep abolish it we feel gagged

  26. laza says:

    Does this idea of encouraging insulting one another in Malawi comes from you Ted Kanyongolo or its the reporter wanga Gwengwe. I mean it would be better to encourage criticism not insulting. Even criticism, not all criticism are listiner friendly. Only positive criticism are intuitive to the environment.

    Kanyongolo for your advantage in case you overlook some of these sensitive terms, here are meanings of the three terms from

    INSULTING means to say some thing OFFENSIVE to someone.

    OFFENSIVE mean to ATTACK someone.

    CRITICISM means disapproving someone or something based on perceived faults.

    In simple equation if insulting means offensive and offensive means attacking someone then insulting means attacking someone , so kanyongolo what you are trying to say is Malawians to start ATTACKING the president. or Malawians should be disapproving the head of state’s ideas. To me criticism or disapproving the president is better than insulting or offending/offensivie or attacking the president.

    Please Zodiak can you visit this old dunde Kanyongolo to explain which insulting term he is using. May be we are using different version of dictionary. Because UNIMA lecturers are terrible remember it started like this in Egypt concpt by the same CHANCO lecturer.

  27. legal department says:

    How can I contact this 60 year old man? I will pay the MK3,000 for him n tell him to do it again.

  28. Nabetha says:

    Wozinyalala nanga mwataninso? Werenganinso kuti mumvese kuti a Kanyongolo anayikila ndemanga yotani pa nkhaniyi. A kanyongolo nawonso akusutsana nayo nkhaniyi ngati m’mene inuyonso mwakalipiliramu.

  29. kimono says:

    4sure. Lamulo lonyasa ili

  30. Vwapuvwapu says:


  31. Kaka says:

    Anyone who is uncomfortable of being insulted should simply not come any closer to the presidential ballot because by the nature of the job a minute does not pass by without the president having wronged somebody in one way or another so the president shud be ready for that. It’s just that the millions not arrested insult him in their heart which curtails freedom of expression

  32. redeemed says:

    Common decency dectates that elders be respected. We do not respect only those we like. In any human culture respect is relatively emphasized. It’s quite shocking the level at which young people have lost so much respect for the elders and one can’t but to wonder the kind of future we have. From a biblical perspective elders are to be respected and those in authority be honoured. I urge my fello Malawians to reconsider their attitude towards others and elders in particular. It may seem simple, but the consequences are serious.

  33. Mwana Mai says:

    Making sweeping statements is what is bringing Malawians among the laughing stock of today’s world. As rightly but our our honourable professor is falling short of elaborating the difference or similarities between an insult and criticism. Until he defines these two words then people will argue for arguments sake. Was he not the same person who shouted most when the President hinted on the need to have our Lecturers do internationally recognizer researches instead of concentrating on trivia as he has just done?

  34. chithope says:

    I agree with Dr kanyongoro coz iz zinali muulamuliro wachipan chimodzi pano tili ulamuliro wazipan zambiri choncho sibwino kumamanga nkhani zake zimenezi malamulo awonedweso

  35. mwachibanda says:

    there is nothing wrong calling a president stupid but it is wrong to call Peter mutharika stupid

  36. Mbebuwa says:

    Iwe mwana mulopwana ndiwe mbuli yamunthu. In the US President Obama is critized, insulted, sworn at and all. There are even websites dedicated to him calling him a leftist, muslim, gay or even a nigga. People say fuck Obama all the time in the US. They don’t get arrested because free speech is guaranteed there. Same thing in Australia and the UK. The queen gets insulted all the time but no one gets arrested. Check your facts again. About other lawyers practicing let them qualify and write the bar exam which usually they fail. We have so many people from Zanzibar, Uganda who pass the bar and practice in Malawi courts. Others UK and US are at the bar. This has nothing to do with Prof Kanyongolo so grow a pair

  37. yuona says:

    If we are to achieve full democracy we must abolish this law. Otherwise we will be wrongly arresting people based on insinuations.

  38. kesterkalonga says:

    Musiye kumunyoza msogoleri achite zabwino mutukwane.muzimangidwa ngati simasamala malankhulidwi Bakili yemwe ija mumamutola kumutukwana.Ndiye ndalama amapereka olakwa amadya ndani.Apolisi muzimangaso anthu amalema zopusa pa face book.

  39. Nyenyezi says:

    what does insulting mean? is telling the truth about how the president is doing his work to the contrary an insult? malawians lets wake up and stop this madness of protecting heads of states, for how long will you do this? always hero praising m’mene zinthu zililimu nkumati dziko likuyenda bwino? ukazuzula walakwa wakundende, shiti business

  40. Cymru says:

    No country will tolerate anyone insulting people in authority or not in authority. Criticism, yes, it is not a crime because one only expresses views of discontent or different opinion from the way things are done. Cartoonists do not necessarily insult but express their view in a different form and even the president can laugh at the way his or her actions are looked upon by others. Let us not confuse people on very simple issues. I have heard people insulting presidents by mentioning very abusive, uncivilized and immoral words. Remember the president is also a human being like any body else. I believe any civilized society will tolerate as a norm people who insults others evening mentioning very foul mouthed words. Does democracy promote that? May be I don’t understand what democracy means. Our learned judges should just differentiate criticism and insulting, no big deal about this. I have seen and many people criticizing the president but nobody was taken to court for that. But somebody was insulting a president and the words were very bad such that the best option available was to take the person to a mental hospital to examine his sanity. So please abolish any presidential criticism law and maintain presidential insult law.

  41. Kavuluvulu says:

    Azitukwanidwa kumene ngati akupanga za utsiru.

  42. Khwethemu says:

    Iwe Mwana Mulopwana ukufuna kunamiza ndani . People insult the Queen kuno ku UK. Lamulo limeneli ndi lausiru. Apange abolish basi. Kutaya nthawi ndi ndalama za boma prosecuting this nonsense. Am insulting him just now Mulopwana. President wombwambwana. Lets go.

  43. Ine says:

    We need to be careful with this; what is the difference between insult and Criticism? Saying the president (his Govt) is grading gravel roads in dry season, it causes a lot of dusts. Is this an insult or criticism? Calling the President Big Kahuna; is an insult or criticism? Nanga uja wa Chindere Chafikapo uja, bwanji lamulo limeneli silinagwire ntchito?

  44. Wozinyanyala says:

    Kanyongolo just wants publicity here. This is absolutely senseless. Kanyongolo, use your brains and dont write something to impress the President just to gain milage. Malawians have a proven record of being useless after being educated and please dont tell me you are one of them. People are dying in hospitals bkoz your president friend has turned a blind eye while knowing there is no medicine, no ambulances, roads are worse, kwacha is becoming just but a paper, government officials are at their pick in theft stealing every thing on there way even taking other people’s lives just to make sure they fill their pockets, education standards have gone to the dogs, the list goes on and you yourself can attest to this. Your president is busy making false promises travelling up and down and enjoying mapwevupwevu dinners ….and you tell me when people cry they are wrong? Does all this need a rocket scientist to note the dude has failed? Do you Kanyongolo have Malawian people interest at heart or you just want to hear what malawians will say about you? If this is what Proffesors are, then to hell with it. Do the right thing with your fellow Proffesor and no one will insult or criticise you. Where is your pride when you move around calling yourselves Proffesors and your country is rated the poorest in the world? Kamuzu wasnt a Proffesor but things were excellent in this country. Bakili was a standard 8 boy but things were better and Joyce Banda also things were better. What about Mr. Proffesor? Shame Kanyongolo. …

  45. Willie Chimseu says:

    Mr Khanje ,vocaburary , insults and criticising too different. Inunso ndi mwai kuti mudalowa mkalasi munakakhala oweta ng´ombe malingana ndi liuma limene muli nalo komanso maonekedwe .kkkkk

  46. adawaza says:

    This is all rubbish. You doing all these because Peter Mutharika has engineered the framework secretly. If peter is stupid that means he is stupid. There is nothing to stop citizens of malawi to point afinger at him and express their concerns. Even in south africa president is booed and insulted. What is peter mutharika after all?? Aprofessor of doom!! Zopusa agalu inu ngati mwapasidwa makobidi zikulephelani. Kanyongolowe ndi mutharika wakoyo nose machende anu. Anthu tikuvutika bcoz of so called these stupid presidents like peter who got no ideologies. Voetsek!!!

  47. levelheaded says:

    Just to put since in this so called journalist (wanga gwede)insulting any person is a crime even in those countries where this animal called freedom of expression is coming from. There in Malawi you think kutukwana president is normal and you be left Scott free. Mubwere kuno Ku states amakumenya ndi anthu samba chifukwa ukapita Ku police amangopitiliza kukuchapanso makofi. Ma quarter baked journalist a Pa nyasatimes mumamufunsa kanyongolo pa freedom of expression multi ndi kampeni Ku mphasa polemba to create an impression as if he is defending those who insult others. Chanco proffesors osamangocomeñta every thing . they just want to use u. Now look at this.

  48. hahahahahaha ………………………. i find this quite very insenstive and ridiculous ………….in constitutional terms the presde is as equally as me…………nde ndiope kumunyoxa ziko liyenda…………lets adapt Wiston Churchill words i quote `av had bin castigated and mocked thus y i found myself on the helm of success`……… lets not bring in usless laws to demise people from all sorts of mockeries if they make sence…………..

  49. ngongoliwa says:

    My dear Kanyongolo, the insult laws in terms of defamation like libel and slander are not meant for only the president. These laws are for everyone including you and the president who is also EVERYONE.
    So if you want these laws to be outdated , that means they have to pealed off from our constitution.That means there will be no tress passing or slanders or libel to all Malawians not only the president. Nobody wants to be belittled casually at all times.
    In other words Kanyongolo remove the word INSULT in our legal dictionary. This means I can come to your office just to insult you because it is my freedom of expression. I should be able to insult you in libel or slanders anywhere, at your home , at your office, in the church because its my birth right. In short make insulting others as a human right for everyone.

    Kanyongolo the president is a human being who enjoys all the rights and freedoms. Remember rights and freedoms are protected by laws. The president is a human being as well who enjoys the rights. In the UN The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are human rights protecting the president like

    Article 5 says no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 8 says your rights are protected by laws.

    These laws are for everyone regardless of the position one is. These rights are protecting everyone including the president like Pro Mathanyula or lecturer like Ted Kanyongolo. Why do you want you to be protected as a lecturer while the Mathanyula as the president should not be proteceted. You are SELFISH. No t good as a lawyer at university lecturer level.

    Go to parliament and remove all the insulting laws for everyone so that when you insult the president, the president should be able to revenge by organizing press conference just to insult two or so journos or politicians like Chakwera or church elders just for that day. that day. Because insult will be our culture.

    If you want politics just come down as what Jessie Kabwila has done. She dancing to all political tunes like abusive languages, unnecessary refutal remarks.

  50. chinkombaleza gumanyundo gowa says:

    Mwina tinene mchichewa. Kutukwana ndikulangiza ndi zinthu ziwiri zosiyana. Ngakhale inuyo a Kanyongolo, Munthu kukutukwanani mukhoza kumutengera ku khoti. mchikhalidwe chathu kutukwana sikololedwa ndikuphwanya ufulu wa munthu winayo. maufuluwa kumawawona pawiri. Kutukwana ndiuchimo ndipo ayenera kulangidwa.

  51. clement says:

    Zauchitsiru basi. How come a Meyer bibida druck insult the head of state without taking action? They have to be punished like Kamuzu era no excuse.

  52. Kanyimbi says:

    I think there is a difference between insulting and criticising. So please do not insult the president you may end up in jail.

  53. mwana mulopwana says:

    Dr Kanyogolo, You are one of the respected people in Malawi but still I cant buy such an idea, you have to deffrenciate between insults and positive critisim, Even if you go to UK, you want be left free if you insult the Queen.
    The second thing, a lot of laws need to be recalled and eve the law that prohibits our fellow Malawian who have practiced law abroad fail to do so because of some archaic laws that only one who studied at College of Law at Chanco can do so, You being the Dr should be on the fore front to clear this blocking issue to other students, we need all students as long as they are bonafied Malawian should have the chance to practice law and in this way you will level the playing field to be corrupt free and they will be competition,
    The laws of Malawi are very funny, it is something that you need to wok on , that is why you get someone who has stolen govt cash amounting to MK3 billion getting 3 years while someone who has stolen 5000Kwacha getting 10 years , this is happening under your watch , please accept the blame yourself , you could have sorted the mess long time ago, Put the Judiciary house in order otherwise it is in total mess

  54. What is insulting the President?Is saying what the President is doing a Crime? Say He is not doing his work is insulting?

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