‘Thou shalt not insult Malawi leader’:  Mutharika wants to use ‘draconian’ law to drap critics ‘like a tonnes of bricks’

A  law that makes it illegal to “undermine the authority of or insult the president,”  is outdated in democratic Malawi and should be outlawed, human rights defenders and lawyers have said citing concern for freedom of speech after President Peter Mutharika threaten to use it.

President Mutharika: I am going to drap on you like a tonnes of bricks

President Mutharika on Saturday warned his deputy Saulos Chilima, former first lady Callista Mutharika and other United Transformation Movement (UTM) gurus against attacking him, threatening to invoke Section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act against his critics.

“I want to warn [Vice-President Saulos] Chilima, [Noel] Masangwi, [Patricia] Kaliati and Callista Chapola [Mutharika. I want to warn you, don’t push me around. You better stop what you are doing.

“There are laws in this country about describing a President. If they don’t stop, I am going to drap on you like a tonnes of bricks, and I mean it… I am tired of this nonsense,” said Mutharika in Mzuzu.

Human rights defenders, legal experts say the regulation undermined freedom of expression and the law is outdated not suitable in a democratic environment.

Prosecutors would be overzealous about charging individuals who remark about President Peter Mutharika in consuming halls and different social locations including on Facebook following the President’s threats, observed the rights defenders.

They argue that freedom of speech means citizens including political competitors have can criticize and even poke enjoyable comments at each other and would be ridiculous to criminalize such actions.

Governance expert and human rights activist Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that the President’s threats have no space in the democratic dispensation.

“In fact, the laws which APM [Mutharika] wants to use are outdated and in conflict with the Constitution and freedom of expression as such they will certainly be challenged in Court if applied,” Munthali said.

If used, critics say the law will further erode the sliding popularity of President Mutharika ahead of next year’s polls.

Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Alfred Majamanda shared Munthali’s sentiments, saying if Mutharika invokes the Section 4, would   be a “step backward” for freedom of expression.

He, nonetheless, cast doubts that the courts may uphold the “draconian law.”

Lawyer Justin Dzonzi as one of the commissioners of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has said the law which the President wants to use to silence his critics is “unconstitutional” despite being in the statues and that courts can review the archaic Section.

“It has not space and place in the democratic set-up,” said Dzonzi.

Immediate past Malawi Law Society president Mwiza  Jo Nkhata, who is also associate professor of law at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said it would be “misuse of powers” is the President invoked his powers to use the controversial section for gagging his opponents in a country that subscribes to democratic values.

State House said not everyone who spoke out would run foul of the law, saying those who want to keep the government in check for the public interest will not be criminalized.

But if the criticism amounts to slander, that President can seek protection from the laws of the country.

Section Four of the Protected Flag, Emblems And Names Act, which provides penalties for anyone who does any act or utters any words or publishes or utters any writing calculated to or liable to insult, ridicule or to show disrespect to or with reference to the President.

Attorney General  Charles Mhango said the law was still part of the country’s statues  and that democracy does not entail a  licence to insult leaders.

The law was previously used to convict opposition leader late Gwanda Chakuamba who attacked former president late Bingu wa Mutharika. He was not sent to jail due to his advanced age.

Politicians Hophmally Makande was also prosecuted on the same law and in trying to punish firebrand polititician Kamlepo Kalua the law was used when he called Bingu “ka Ngwazi”.

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Labwino Lowala
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Labwino Lowala

Do not waste time with village politics of insulting each other. In the Western civilizations, name calling is not a crime. Stop whining on petty issues and concentrate on life or death issues we have in abundance in Malawi. People are dying in hospitals because of lack of basic medicines and you are wasting time castigating each other. Useless. Last time I checked, MK145 million could easily buy 8000 modern hospital beds. Why don’t you focus on tangible things that need to be done to develop Malawi? Prioritize projects please. Food, Health, Education, Defence are just some of the areas… Read more »

maseko
Guest
maseko

If the piece of legislation is not in tandem with democratic values why has the law commission not recommended a revision? Are we really working in this country or we are all sleeping on our jobs?

Chilungamo
Guest
Chilungamo

Anthu amatukwana achina Trump, Zuma etc. A Malawi kungonda kuzikakamula? Ngati zenizeni tsono? That’s why ati professor…… dr…..
Mukachoka apo muyambe kuba ma K145 million, kenako kunama “ayi sindimadziwa, ayi ndi ya chipani…… ayi tibweza”…….. .zabodza basi!!!
Olo ku America achina Trump ku bank kutalowa over $150,000 akalempjere kudzidzimuka, kuti yachokera kuti? If it’s a donation DECLARE it and say thank you. UMBAVA UMBAVA basi

musundu umodza
Guest
musundu umodza

Wake up Malawi, those were old days you could use dirty politics to attract masses, gone are days of Dr Bakili Muluzi. To my surprise lawyers and political commentators are enjoying insults branded on His Excellency. We need leaders who have respect for others, and be exemplary in all terms. Convince Malawian with economical points that could take Malawians to another level. How could Malawians easily forget that here is a person who wanted to stand as a President of Party he is instigating now. wake up Malawi.

VYOTO
Guest
VYOTO

TYPICAL OF THE LOMWELIZED AND SELFISH WAY OF THINKING FROM THIS PRESIDENT, ONLY THINKING ABOUT HIMSELF.AFTER SENSING THAT HE IS LOSING THE GAME, HE TURNS TO MOANING, BABY CRYING LIKE JOSE MOURIHNO OF MANUTD. AKUNYENYANINYENYANI AZIMAYI AMENEWA. OSANGOPUMA BWANJI.

mtete
Guest

Our president, professor APM, an expert in constitutional law does not know the law he wants to use to punish critics is outdated. I blame his so called advisors for the numerous blunders our president has been making of late. Obviously he must have consulted his multitude of advisors before going on the podium to do the

Sugzo
Guest
Sugzo

Mr President please shoot them they are stupid. The law is the law. If what is happening is democracy then bring dictatorship. Inunso a president you are too tolerant. How can you allow Chilima and his prostitutes insult you and you are smiling. Arrest them and teach them a lesson.

ndaonavino
Guest

So when i am in my home village i can go uphill and start insulting elders there just because the laws they were using to punish people are outdated? what is outdated thinking by the ways? Outdated thinking is when you think that being in democratic sphere is being irresponsible by insulting others. Come up with facts for people to vote for you.

Doreen Chinkonde
Guest
Doreen Chinkonde

Please leave munthalika alone. Inu simudzakalamba.ngati mukufuna kuvota kavoteni chabe. Poti voti ndimumtima. Koma zoti inu mudzakhalabe tean ager mpaka kale ayi. Zonyoza President zinthe iya

Nzika ya Malawi
Guest
Nzika ya Malawi

Chiuzeni chindele chakufikapo chi APMcho kuti chiyambe ichocho kulemekeza a Malawi

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