President Peter Mutharika, on his own volition, said the other day that treason is a serious offence and one that any sensible government should not just wake up and throw at anybody as it fancies.
I agree with him without qualms. The question the President must address is why his government is doing exactly that.
While the PP administration had some case arresting him and his DPP colleagues for trying to stop Joyce Banda from assuming office as President after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, does the President really think people discussing how inept his administration is and what can be legally done about it through demonstrations deserve to face the charge of treason?
Did Jesse Kabwila, Ulemu Msungama and Peter Chakhwatha, with their colleagues abroad in the US and UK, talk about guns and how to mobilise an army to overthrow the constitutionally formed Peter Mutharika government?
What about the use of MBC to run through the conversation thread the discussants had on WhatsApp on both TV and radio? What is its use?
At the end of the day, this is cartooning and travesty of the highest order and the President is condoning it when he told this country that we must not play with treason whose punishment is death.
If you ask me, dear reader, I repeat, Joyce Banda had a case against the DPP for trying to stop her from assuming office when the Constitution said so.
The President has constantly tagged that political harassment. I thought the country had seen enough of the harassment but here we are again going in circles.
People are being arrested and released at night or early morning and told they are on police bail for a serious charge of treason.
It is clear, the intention is to harass them and shut their mouths up.
But we have been on this path before. We have people that have been arrested on treason charges since 1994 yet nobody has gone through the court process and got convicted.
Bakili Muluzi, Brown Mpingajira, Cassim Chilumpha, Joseph Chimbayo, John Chikakwiya, Kennedy Makwangwala and Yusuf Matumula and the list does not end , have all gone through the trauma of being charged with treason but nobody has been convicted. Some have sued for malicious prosecution and we have, as taxpayers, paid the price.
The charges get fizzled out and life goes on.
Do we need treason as a crime? We do because at some point in future somebody will indeed take up guns and try to upset the constitutional order that this country has built over the years from scratch.
But at the moment it is being abused big time. It is total travesty. It is a means for politicians in government to silence those who rub them the wrong way. It is a way of government to harass those who are a thorn in their flesh.
As for the police, they are our police. They stand for everybody and their role in today’s world is not to be used to harass people and do the bidding of the politicians.
They could not even make up their mind on what charge they wanted to lay against Kabwila, Msungama and Chakhwatha.
Even the Inspector General, Lexten Kachama, could not explain properly to the country what he was charging the three politicians with.
Treason is a serious offence and none of us would have to scratch our heads if it was committed.
The DPP should stop embarrassing us all by cooking up things and then charging Malawians with such a serious offence whose penalty is death. It is scary.
- The article appeared in Malawi News under the column ‘Hitting the nail’