The decision by the High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda to dismiss the Attorney General’s injunction to stop the anti-Jane Ansah protests in the cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu is a success for democracy and upholding the constitutional right of the citizens to demonstrate as enshrined in Section 38 of the constitution.
The ruling puts to rest attempts by government to use the law to block demonstrations. Previously government has used different strategies to stifle freedom of expression. For example, the notorious Democrtaic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets have been deployed at assembly points for demonstrations, especially in Blantyre, to beat up and frustrate demonstrators; DPP functionaries have issued threats and intimidated demonstration organisers; the Inspection General of Police Rodney Jose has thrown the constitution out of the window and used the Police Act to stop the demonstrations; Some Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) officials have been arbitrarily arrested to crush their spirit; government has sponsored pro-Jane Ansah demonstrations, state-controlled MBC has been used to discredit demonstrations and a wave of propaganda and fake news from the DPP have been used to dampen the spirit of organisers to forge ahead with ‘Jane Ansah Must Fall Campaign’. But all has been in vain.
However, the High Court ruling has dented the image of the Attorney General. As the principal legal adviser of the government he should be the last person to prevent people from demonstrating peacefully. He should not have applied for a court injunction to stop demonstrations. This is stifling freedom of the expression. He knows too well that demonstrations are part of human rights provided for in the constitution which is the supreme law of the land.
It is strange that the Attorney General was trying to stop the demonstrations (regardless of the grounds he was advancing) when he knows the constitution is above any other law. So one cannot use the Police Act or any other act to stop the demonstrations. The Inspector General of Police, Attorney General or indeed the President cannot stop demonstrations. Unfortunately, people who are knowledgeable about the law and should educate others and serve as role models are in the forefront of trying to undermine the law.
The Attorney General in his application demanded that the organisers pay a sum of K2 billion as surety. Again, this is a strange decision that could best be described as political. Whether he came up with this decision on his own or from elsewhere, it lacks any legal basis.
It should be admitted that criminal elements have infiltrated the demonstrations as reflected through violence and looting. However, criminal behaviour is not a cogent reason to stop demonstrations. It the duty of police to safeguard people’s property and life.
Instead of stopping demonstrations, the Attorney General should have advised the police to devise other strategies to deal with crowd control rather than teargas demonstrators anyhow, a situation that has led to the people losing trust in the police. The army has offered to assist the police clamp down on ruffians and criminals during and after demonstrations. The police could do justice by taking advantage of this window of help to arrest criminals. Demonstrations are non-negotiable!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :