Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supporters on Monday erupted into songs and dances as Police granted bail to their member Ulemu Msungama after his arrest Sunday on charges he sought to spark a revolt against President Peter Mutharika.
Msungama – who stood for MCP in Lilongwe City North East parliamentary election in the May 2014 polls and lost to Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Bentry Namasasu, but is challenging the results in court – has been charged with sedition over a conversation on WhatsApp that purportedly talks about how President Peter Mutharika is failed Malawians economically and socially that the government described as a plot for coup d’état.
He denies planning to dislodge Mutharika from power, saying his failed performance will send him packing.
MCP president Lazarous Chakwera welcomed Msungama’s release on bail when he addressed thousands of party supporters who came at party headquarters.
He said authorities deliberately set out to dehumanise and humiliate MCP members after calling for President Peter Mutharika to resign.
Chakwera fears DPP government has stepped up political repression to silence critics over economic turmoil.
He accused the government using the case to harass its political opponents.
Msungama’s arrest on sedition charges has drawn severe condemnation from human rights campaigners and citizens who have taken to social media demanding the politically inspired charges be dropped.
Human rights campaigner Billy Mayaya told Nyasa Times on Monday that sedition charges should be dropped as they are tantamount to persecution.
“The sedition laws are incongruent with Malawi’s nascent democracy. They are purposely used to silence critics of the government,” observed Mayaya who was once arrested on sedition charge following a demonstration against the DPP government.
“To suggest that the opposition are the only ones who are dismayed with the performance of the current government is simply being myopic. The truth of the matter is that they were submissions to PAC both oral and written which in part demanded that government steps down and pave way for a government of national unity,” Mayaya added.
“We therefore demand the dropping of flimsy charges on opposition leaders through the use of archaic and obsolete laws which are not in tandem with democratic principles. If any harm befalls any member of the opposition, we shall hold this government responsible,” he said.
Activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire – now reticent following his association with DPP – expressed shock with the sedition accusation.
“Treason and Sedition via Whatsapp, tell me how that work does?” Chiza Mkandwire who was arrested with Mayaya on sedition for demonstration wrote on his Facebook page.
An MCP supporter based in UK, Tobias Mapulanga condemned the arrest, saying the accusation of coup are “rubbish.”
Mapulanga said the arrests of MCP members “will not make [President Peter Mutharika] competent overnight.”
He wrote: “There is a high risk however that the move may backfire and cause civil unrest. That will drastically cut the 90 days ultimatum [for President to resign] to 0 days.”
National Police Spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa has confirmed that Msungama has been charged with Sedition contrary to Section 51 of the Penal Code.
Police spokesman also confirmed hunt for MCP spokeswoman Jessie Kabwila and its legal advisor Lewis Chakhwantha on similar charges as those of Msungama.
Kabwila and Chakwantha are also members of Parliament (MPs), with the former representing Salima North West while the latter is legislator for Lilongwe Rural South West.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :