Judge Mwaungulu tips Bingu on cabinet, gays, laws

Malawi High Court Judge Dunstain Mwaungulu, who is also an authoritative commentator on topical issues on the Nyasanet discussion forum, says the current financial turmoil facing the country needs austerity measures such as having a lean and affective cabinet.

Mwaungulu, in his post on Nyasanet, offers tips on how President Bingu wa Mutharika can abate some of the pressing issues.

Malawians have been unhappy in recent time with complaints including the worst electricity and fuel; the president’s “secret authorisation” to spend $13m on a private jet; incidents of abuse of power; and intolerance and violence.

Justice Dunstan Mwaungulu tips Bingu

The government has also been accused of passing regressive laws to restrict the media and opponents.

“The President could himself just dissolve the Cabinet, reinvigorate and change its face,” Judge Mwaungulu suggests in his posting. He advises that President Mutharika would also consider repealing the censorship provision from the Penal Code.

Justice Mwaungulu says the country should also consider abolishing sodomy law.

“The sodomy law is not a gay law. It is a criminal law and common law crime based on that sodomy, annal sex, is an unnatural offence like bestiality. All of us would be very reprehensible when a man has sex with a cow! But sodomy, unfortunately is possible even if you are not gay,” he writes.

“Unfortunately, sodomy, and we Judges take judicial notice occurs very frequently as normal sexual behaviour among the married, prisoners etc., who may be heterosexual. It is more incident among gays where it is their way of sexual expression.

“From a theological perspective, the church regards homosexuality as sin much like adultery, but the church does not support criminalization. More when the matter is open to public debate when the law is repealed.”

The judge, who was writing in his personal capacity, also took a swipe at the recently enacted Injunctions law, saying it was a failure in public policy.

“The legislation was unnecessary on the correct law. On judicial reviews and statutory reviews the law is based on misdirected enthusiasm. It is not the duty of the law to protect the government more than it protects the governed,” he argues.

“The law is there to facilitate government and actually protect the governed. While it is stringent, it must be obvious that protecting the citizen is better law. The law offers sufficient protection for the government and what is sought by the legislation is overprotection.”

Justice Mwaungulu advises Mutharika to appoint “a new Minister of Justice.”

He further said Mutharika new cabinet should help review policy matters including that of economy after the government adopted a “zero-deficit” budget.

Civil society groups in Malawi have sounded the alarm over policies they say are rolling back hard-fought democratic gains made since the country’s first democratic polls in 1994 removed Kamuzu Banda from power.

In January, Mutharika signed a law allowing the information minister to ban publications deemed “contrary to the public interest”, and in May local government elections — already delayed for six years — were again postponed.

His government has also imposed a requirement for activists seeking to hold protests to make a deposit of about $15,000 with police, intended as a safeguard against rioting and property damage.

The concerns of civil society were echoed in a leaked British diplomatic cable that accused Mutharika of “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

That sparked off a diplomatic spat that saw both countries withdraw their ambassadors, while London last week suspended around £19 million of budgetary aid meant for anti-poverty programmes in one of the world’s poorest countries.—(Reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times)

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