LILONGWE ? The Muslim community in Malawi have been calling for the re-activation of capital punishment in the country’s legal system as a deterrent to a rising wave of crime rate in the southern African nation.
“Ever since the adoption of the new political order in 1993, post – democratic governments in the country have not respected the constitution by not signing execution warrants for dangerous criminals who commit very serious crimes for fear of losing popularity,” Dr. Imran Shareef, Secretary General of the country’s supreme Muslim body, Ulama Council of Malawi told OnIslam.net.
“But this has fueled crime rate, which is even scaring prospective investors. Criminals have gone on the prowl killing and robbing violently without mercy,” he added.
Shareef, one of the country’s renowned scholars, said as much as democracy has brought liberation to the country’s citizenry, it has also brought its own share of bad effects, including uncontrolled freedom which afforded dangerous criminals opportunities to unleash terror on innocent people.
In 1993, after three decades of one party dominance in one of the world’s most impoverished nations, Malawians decided in a referendum to revert to pluralistic politics.
Since then, there have never been any executions of criminals sentenced to death by courts.
“The rate of crime in Malawi has reached alarming and worrisome levels. Criminals are not afraid of being hanged, because there is lack of political will to sign death warrants,” he said.
“It is for this reason that we are pleading with those in authority to uphold this clause of the constitution in order to minimize rising levels of crime rate.”
President of the Malawi Law Society (MLS) John Gift Mwakhwawa said although the last post democratic regimes in the country have avoided signing execution warrants, capital punishment was still legal in the country’s statutes.
“Legally, capital punishment is still there in the Malawi Constitution, only that there has never any political will to sign death warrants for particular inmates on death row.
“The move taken by the Muslim community is highly commendable, but what they can do is to persuade the president (Joyce Banda) to sign warrants so that offenders on death row could be executed,” Mwakhwawa, told OnIslam.net, however, adding that death penalty was not mandatory.
“Capital punishment was not mandatory. However, the courts could still impose it on offenders. But it is only up to the president to sign it or not.”
Noting that the capital punishment was still legal in Malawi, the legal expert Mwakhwawa asserted that politicians lacked the will to apply it.
“Using capital punishment to deter crime rate could only work if there is a political will to have it affected,” he told OnIslam.net.
“But much as I agree that crime rate is on the rise in the country, but unless, there is a political will from a sitting president, there is no way capital punishment can be enforced.
“Our political leaders are afraid of losing popularity in the event that they sign death warrants, because in the past, capital punishment was associated with political repression, therefore no leader is ready to take this country back on this road,” the MLS president added.
Malawian traditional leaders, who enjoy some semblance of influence in certain aspects of governance, have also voiced out their concerns on the “soft stand” taken by political leaders over the past years, to enforce some clauses of the law in the country’s constitution.
“The absence of political will to sign death warrants has created a fertile ground for criminals to break the law at their own will,” Senior Traditional leader, Mulumbe told OnIslam.net.
“Malawians in the post-democratic era have not enjoyed maximum security, because criminals also claim to have right to life. It is regrettable that that we are in this situation, where in an attempt to score cheap political points, our political leaders just watch as our nation descend into anarchy,” he added.
The secretary general of the Ulama Council of Malawi warned that dropping death penalty has galvanized criminals who were no longer facing gallows.
“Our stand as Muslims is that capital punishment should be enforced to ensure that this country is safe from criminals who are on the prowl. All sectors of the society are of the view that this clause of the constitution provides hope to this country which has now descended into almost state of lawlessness,” said Shareef.
“During previous constitutional conferences, delegates from across all sectors of Malawi society protested against any attempts to have the clause removed, fearing that lawlessness would become a norm in the country. Therefore, by not signing any death warrants, besides breaking the law, our presidents are also going against the wishes of the people they are governing.”
Since 1993, there have been debates among individuals, religious and human rights organizations on whether to abolish death penalty or not. However calls for re-activation of the death penalty in the country’s constitution have been deafening.
“Our message as Muslims to those in authority is that they should strive to uphold the constitution which they swore to protect and at the same time,” said Shareef.
“They should respect the sanctity of life of those in the majority who are feeling the consequences of their lack of willingness to enforce death penalty for dangerous criminals.”