Former Governor of Reserve Bank of Malawi, Dalitso Kabambe — who eyes for the presidency of the Democratic Progressive Party — has joined the loud calls that are condemning Friday’s arrest of Joshua Chisa Mbele for allegedly inciting violence during demonstrations in Lilongwe.
Kabambe writes on his Facebook page that “it’s sad that in this day and age people can be getting arrested for exercising their democratic right”.
“I might not agree with any of you, but as the French Philosopher Voltaire said, I will defend to death your right to say it. I have a simple advice to those in power — do not arrest protestors.
“If anything, arrest the cause of the protests. Arrest the corruption in government as you promised. Arrest the prices of goods. Arrest the rising cost of living — such action would insulate you from the protests you do not like.
“As a person, I send my best wishes to Joshua Chisa Mbele and all the other protestors arrested. I hope they are granted their freedom soon. This country is going through serious and scary problems for government to busy itself with arresting critics.”
Another aspirant for the DPP presidency, Bright Msaka also posted on his Facebook page condemning the arrest, saying: “What is shocking is that this regime came into being after a series of destructive protests that left properties damaged and demonstrators injured.
“I would like to remind President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera that demonstrations are a basic right enshrined in the constitution of Malawi which is the supreme law of the land.
“I, therefore, call upon the authorities to immediately set free all arrested civilians who are exercising their rights.”
What earned Chisa Mbele and 31 others the arrest was that he decided to proceed to Kamuzu Palace after their petition at Lilongwe District Commissioner’s office, defying the route he was approved to hold the demonstrations.
The protests started peacefully in the morning from Lilongwe Community Centre through Mchesi Township to Chilambula Roundabout via Bwandilo and Inter-change to City Centre.
At Chilambula Roundabout, the police mounted a barricade to stop the protesters from proceeding to Kamuzu Palace. Chisa Mbele had indicated that he would ask the DC Lawford Palani to join the demos to State House.
Fierce social issues commentator Onjezani Kenani said: “In this day and age, no one must be arrested for exercising their democratic right. Release Joshua Chisa Mbele and his two colleagues now!”
Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa visited the arrested demonstrators with a call for President Chakwera to “respect people’s rights”.
Nankhumwa believes that the arrest of the demonstrators is a violation of their freedom and rights and claims that during the DPP administration, no one was arrested for demonstrating because the government then respected people’s rights.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) reveals that Chisa Mbele was allegedly assaulted by the Police and has since requested state-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to institute investigation.
It is reported that after his arrest, Chisa Mbele was temporarily detained at Area 3 Police Station before he was transferred to Nathenje Police Station in the outskirts of Lilongwe and ferried back to Area 3 on Saturday.
HRDC National Chairperson, Gift Trapence said they have received reports that Mbele was assaulted by the law enforcers on Saturday while in police custody.
“As such, with the letter, we prompt the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), as the legally mandated institution, to institute investigations into this alleged Police abuse and take appropriate action where necessary,” reads part of the letter Trapence has co-signed with his other leaders.
They cite the 1994 Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, which protects fundamental human rights. Among others, Section 16 stipulates that: “Every person has the right to life and no person shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her life.”
“Section 19(3) provides that: ‘No person shall be subject to torture of any kind or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.
“Under Section 38: ‘Every person shall have the right to assemble and demonstrate with others assembly peacefully and unarmed’.”
Trapence emphasizes that these rights are non-derogable and that the police are mandated to protect “public safety and the rights of persons in Malawi according to the prescriptions of this Constitution and any other law.”
In his response to Kabambe’s post, Mursalu Mwamadi applauded Chisa Mbele, describing his demonstrations as “active citizenship”, saying for the rest of the citizenry it is their “great impetus to eternally hold leaders to account in democratic Malawi”.
“However, we should not overzealously exercise that democratic right,” Mwamadi said while Mike Ndalapa also agreed with Kabambe that it’s a democratic right to demonstrate but added that “it doesn’t mean people should break the laws”.
“We have laws that govern this country — let’s respect them accordingly. This is not a jungle where people do as they please.”
Despite calls by DC Palani to be handed the petition, the organisers refused leading to a clash between police and the protesters, as they tried to march to Kamuzu Palace.
In his speech on Saturday during the Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Festival at Mbande Hill, President Chakwera took cognizance of the protests against his administration describing the demos as coming from “a few hundred Malawians protesting in the Capital.
He said Chisa Mbele and all the demonstrators “exercised their freedom to state peacefully and publicly their opinion about what is wrong with the country and how to fix it”.
“There is nothing wrong with that. And there are 19 million other Malawians who have an opinion of their own who were not part of those demonstrations, and there is nothing wrong with that either.
“Everyone is free to have an opinion and to express it peacefully and publicly, just as everyone else is free to disagree with that opinion. So beware of those who shout their opinion loudly but try to silence others from shouting their opinion loudly.
“And beware of those who say that their personal opinion is the opinion of all Malawians, because there is no person who speaks for all Malawians. All Malawians speak for themselves, which is why every Malawian who is an adult votes for themselves.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :