On police invading college campuses

Section 153(1) of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi provides that “The Malawi Police Force shall be an independent organ of the executive, which shall be there to provide for the protection of public safety and the rights of persons in Malawi according to the prescriptions of this Constitution and any other law.”

The above extract from the constitution is very clear so much that it does not need a trained lawyer to interpret the phrasing therein. In a very simple and brief sense, the section emphasises on the core duties and responsibilities of the Malawi Police Service (MPS). In my layman understanding of the section, I wish to vehemently condemn what some quarters of the MPS do when it comes to handling university students. It seems, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the conduct of the MPS towards the university students goes beyond the confinement of its constitutional duties.

I usually find the Police’s conduct to invade college campuses not only uncalled for but also illegal. This, matter of factly, is ultra vires! They have the constitution rights to chase us, university students, from the streets whenever we illegally storm them (streets). But going beyond this constitution duty to an extent of storming our campuses with teargases is something that raises more questions too silent for answers. They deliberately tend to forget the irrefutable fact that every person has a right to security and personal liberty as enshrined in our constitution – no need for me to state the provisions of the constitution on such rights here.

Under siege: Chancellor College during the academic freedom struggle

Perhaps they need to be schooled once again that one of their constitutional duties is to provide us with the protection of our rights. One tends to wonder as to where else can he or she find remedy when the very same people entrusted with the provision of security and protection of his or her rights are on the forefront violating them! Remember, this is the twenty first Malawi, and one of the defining factors for this era is the fact that every human being is accorded the right to a happy life replete with respect for human dignity from the powers that be – law enforcers inclusive.

By chasing us from the streets, we are always left with one alternative to provide us with the security we need –  and that is our home which is the college campus. But when the police comes to teargas us in the confinement of our campus halls of residence, we are left with nowhere to run to for our dear lives. Honestly, this is inhumane and an attempt to kill us in cold blood. Needless to say that such an attempt to kill us with either the teargas or any sort of brutality is in breach of not only the constitution of Malawi but also the supreme divine law – God’s commandments.

The police ought to know that the same life they long for is the very same life we, university students, also scramble for. They need to be schooled on the fact that being a university student does not necessarily mean that one has given off his or her sense of being human. We are human beings just like they [the police] are! We need to have an environment where no person – not even the state machinery – would treat us as good-for-nothing animals. We are here at university not only for our own goodness but also the goodness of all humanity. The service we are to offer after graduating shall benefit all Malawians, entire human race to be more precise.

The police ought to look at us not as the enemies of the state and/or their enemies. We are partners in development as we are pursuing studies that are to help in developing our nation, Malawi. If they brutally and maliciously treat or teargas us in the way they do, who do they think would develop this country?

My appeal to the state president, Madam Joyce Hilda Banda, is that she must make sure, in her capacity as the country’s commander-in-chief, that what transpired at Chancellor College during the struggle for academic freedom should not happen again.

She has to instruct the Malawi Police Service that they have to desist from invading college campuses with teargases. In her capacity as Chancellor of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) and Mzuzu University (Mzuni), she has to direct that what the police did today, May 5, at the University of Malawi’s Polytechnic should never ever happen again.

We don’t want to hear, never in our lifetime, that the police invaded and teargased Mzuni students or any of the students of the University of Malawi.

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