South Africa-based law professor Damwood Chirwa says the arrest of social media activist Joshua Chisa Mbele and subsequent release without charge on Wednesday was an abuse of power, which evokes tragic memories of the dark past of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Police yesterday arrested Chisa Mbele at his home in Salima and drove him to Area 18 Police Station in Lilongwe for questioning and detention over an alleged cyber-related crime.
“I’m at Area 18 Police Station. Waiting to be charged. I’m yet to be told. Akuti a Yoswa kulakatula kwambiri. Azimai, kumapenyatu. Chilungamo chimapha!” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Reacting to the development, Professor Chirwa, also writing on his Facebook page, described the arrest as “an abuse of power, simple, and a futile threat, more importantly”.
“Let us be clear: the arrest of Joshua Chisa Mbele was an abuse of power, simple, and a futile threat, more importantly. Such abuse has started too quickly and evokes tragic memories of MCP’s dark past. I thought this was a poor joke,” he said.
He added, “No one fears this current MCP — a bunch of amateurs, pretenders, and dull and backward cheats, ruled by the stomach. You didn’t bring democracy to Malawi, you opposed it. You lost power to democracy and took power back because of it. Thou shalt not bring us back to the dark days of unlawful detention and suppression of free speech.”
Another renowned lawyer Ralph Kasambara, in his post titled ‘Of incitement offences and cyber crimes’, challenged that the government might have an uphill task to successfully prosecute the case because the criminal offence of incitement requires proof of violence, which he observed not to be always easy.
He observed that a majority of law enforcers are not well versed with cyber-crimes as spelt under the new Communications Act.
“This offence is always a challenge to prove as it collides with freedom of expression. An astute arresting officer or prosecutor tries as much as possible to avoid it. The usual result is an acquittal, which basically means an egg on the face of political leadership,” he says.
Kasambara argues that the truth or justification remains a defence in such cases and that, in addition, such offences must be balanced against freedom of expression.
He wonders whether the timing of the arrest is good for the political leadership that is overseas.
“Are we sure we want both foreign and local journalists asking our president about him ordering arrests of his political critics? By arresting Joshua Chisa Mbele, have we not made him a political martyr or political hero? Yes, his Facebook page was popular but now it is trending. If not careful we will be repeating the same mistakes ajawo ankapanga. Anyway, I am a mere observer. Another Facebook addict like my brother Joshua Chisa Mbele. NB: wakusina khutu ndi mnasi. Kamuuzyanga ni fwiti yayi. Fwiti ni tilinganenge,” warns Kasambara.
National Police publicist James Kadadzera said he had no information about Mbele’s arrest.
“What is his profession?” asked Kadadzera.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda has dismissed allegations that he is instructed the police to arrest Chisa Mbele.
“That’s not true! For what would I want him arrested? People are just fabricating stories against me,” said Chimwendo Banda in a brief interview this morning.
Chimwendo Banda, a senior MCP official, also parried away fears that Chisa Mbele’s arrest signifies that Malawi is returning to dictatorship.
“People should differentiate between the old and the new MCP. We are a democratic party with new leadership, which cannot allow to make such a mistake,” he assured.
Many families suffered heavily under the brutal leadership of the MCP during Kamuzu Banda presidency with many effects still being felt today. President Chakwera recently went to Moto Village in Mangochi where he apologised and asked for forgiveness to heal the wounds of the past.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :