Malawi  should scrape off presidential insult laws – Activists

Human rights activists have stood up demanding that the State suspends Section 4 of the penal code prosecutions, saying the ruling party is using it to persecute political opponents.

Rights campaigners addressing a news conference

The chairman of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Timothy Mtambo said this in view of the arrest UTM director of youth Bon Kalindo.

Kalindo was arrested on Thursday for disorderly conduct and allegedly insulting the president.

“This law is being abused. The DPP government just wants to silence political opponents and critics using this law. The DPP just want to ensure that nobody criticizes the president even if he is wrong,” said Mtambo at a news conference.

But Khumbo Soko, a law expert said the activists are directing the issue to a wrong party.

“What they should do is to go to the courts and ask the courts to suspend the law, the government cannot suspend the law,” said Soko.

Information minister Henry Mussa said he was surprised that the CSOs are talking negative of the law now when it has been there since the colonial era.

“This law was not created by the DPP. The DPP found it in the statutes and we are just implementing it,” said Mussa.

Kalindo was charged with disorderly conduct contrary to Section 153 (1) of the Police Act as well as Insulting the president contrary to Section 4 of the Protection of Flags, Emblems and Names Act.

Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali said such laws are in conflict with theories  of democracy and servant leadership, and can only find a place in a dictatorship leadership model.

“Such laws accord the President a demi-god status whereby the sitting President and those in the rulling party are given a license to hurl insults on political opponents while shielding them from prosecution. Such laws have no place in the current democratic dispensation.

“ If government feels that such laws are important to protect the dignity of the president, then certainly the immunity law that protects the President from prosecution should be removed and the President should be charged for insulting opposition leaders and anyone else,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.

He argued that a Law that promotes selective justice is a bad law.

“What is worse calling the President ‘maliseche athu’  and calling him ‘wapenga’. But the one who called the President maliseche athu got away with it.”

Munthali said there should be a  moratorium (suspension of the law) in place on all these Laws to allow a review of such laws in the context of the immunity of the President and our Constitution.

“ If we think such Laws should continue in order to protect the dignity and respect of the office of the President then Members of Parliament should come up with a Law that should also criminalise Presidential insults against opposition leaders, civil society leaders or any critics of the government. In this regard, MPs should pass an amendment Bill removing the immunity of the President from prosecution so that he or she can also face arrests in the context of insulting other leaders.”

The HRDC  vice chairperson Gift Trapence  noted that over the years the DPP regime has employed the “archaic” law  to muzzle and silence critics.

Last year the  government pounced on President  Mutharika’s niece Abiti Manice and charged her with insulting the president, the case has since been discontinued.

In February 2018, Mike Suide, a primary school teacher was given a 12 month suspended sentence for mocking the president, in 2015 60 year old Alinafe Paul was arrested, charged and fined MK3000 for insulting the president and a security officer for a private company was also arrested on the same archaic charge.

“We note a very serious and worrisome trend in these arrests, government targets either those that are very critical or those are poor.  On the other hand these archaic laws are applied selectively as we have often noted that this law spares those that sympathizes y with the power that be.

“We recall how government is timid to use this law of the DPP hooligans that caused havoc at Parliament in June 2018 and at recently at Kawale Police,” he said.

Trapence hinted that the Republican Constitution gives each and every person and legitimate organization rights to freely associate and speak on matters of national concern saying when citizens raise issues, they are aimed at helping the duty bearers to do the right things.

Simply put, he said, “the arresting citizens  to silence state critics will not only reflect badly on the governing elite, but will go down towards creating a society bent on revenge, violence and which does not respect the rule of law.”

He said government should immediately act on the pertinent and serious issues of national interest that are affecting Malawians rather than diverting Malawians real attention to lame and baseless things.

Trapence also disclosed that the coalition through its legal team is going to audit the penal code and challenge all the archaic laws before the courts.

“These laws have nothing to do in a democratic dispensation, we are grouping to challenge them before the courts to see into it that they are repealed,” he said.

Eastern Region chief resident magistrate Mzondi Mvula yesterday reserved to Monday his ruling on a bail application by Kalindo.

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Stanley Mdala
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Stanley Mdala

There are so many bad laws in the Constitution of Malawi that require repealing to suit current political system. Apart from this President and Emblems and Flags laws the Rogue and Vagabond laws are out of date. A Special Law Commission need to look at irrelevant laws current being abused by this knackered and old and outdated regime. Even the Malawi Police are happy abusing the laws when they should be challenging the government.The police are poorly paid and live in dilapidated house’s and wear torn and old uniforms and yet they are very loyal to their masters. Utsamunda ulipobe… Read more »

vinie
Guest
vinie

just shut up your mouth mbuli woitanila ma minibus akundila JJ Mbewe pathfinder , ulibe nzeru, ukufuna uziyankula ma comment ako apa opanda nzeru , osamakangoitanila ma minibus bwanji mesa nde nchito yako galu iwe

Gule Wamkulu
Guest
Gule Wamkulu

STANDARD 5 SOCIAL STUDIES TEST
Multiple choice question:

Anthu awiri awa analankhula mau. Sankhani kodi mwa awiriwa anatukwana ndi ndani:

( a ) BON KALINDO: Mutharika ndi openga.
( b ) BEN PHIRI: Mutharika ndi mapwala athu.

Malawi
Guest
Malawi

If DPP do not want people to be criticising them they should refrain from provoking others.

If you provoke expect people to react. We are not intimidated by you. This is just a kick of a dying horse.

Muuzane kumpandako. Nobody fears you at all. We just respect you.

Mchacha should know that kuno ndi kunja. One day you are going to regret.

Karma.

Goms
Guest
Goms

The law is in order and does not protect the president only but every citizen . If I am insulted I can seek legal redress. We simply need to mind what come out of the mouths

Mtumbuka weniweni
Guest
Mtumbuka weniweni

If we are to promote politics of castigation and insults what are we teaching our children?
CSOs are headless

Samuel
Guest
Samuel

Kodi malamulo amatichiyani nkhani ikakhala kukhothi? I think folks you are not respecting the courts. The President is our father we must give him respect. Kodi a Mtambo ndi abale auo mwakatenga mafomu. Nthawi ikuthathu. Mpokoso yanu yatikwana. Thank you.

BigMan
Guest
BigMan

The president is not our father, he is just the president. How can you be referring to the president as our father as if you ate children in a democracy in 2019? Its a shame that people with that childish thinking still exist in 2019, how can wr develop like that!?

Imagine Trump regarded as dad for the American people, or Theresa May as Mother for the British? Or even Zuma as dad of the South Africans?

Samson
Guest
Samson

Respect should be earned and not asked for. This is the basic principle of life. To ask for respect simply means one does not deserve it. In this case the president does not deserve respect if he wants people to respect him by force. His actions is what will earn him respect. He should simply work out his issues if he wants respect.

mkwante
Guest
mkwante

Simply put, this law must go! Our lawyers should do the needful. As a country we do not want laws that create semi gods in a democratic society. This was a law for colonialists and dictatorship in a one party government, and not now. Surprisingly, it is the DPP government which has used this law a lot since democracy started in Malawi. What the CSOs are saying is true and any competent court with sound judgement can not use archaic laws to convict citizens in democratic set up. One wonders also what this law intends to achieve. The time our… Read more »

jonas
Guest
jonas

Join the discussion…malamulowa munapanga ndinu a mcp and you have been torturing citizens now bcoz it is dpp mukulubwalubwa

Pedegu
Guest

Let’s start by scraping off the Law That govern the operation of CSO first

John
Guest
John

@ pedegu

Archaic reasoning