In yet another sign that the persistent demonstrations against numerous evils of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime are paying dividends, Mutharika desperately ordered the Malawi Police and Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to use ‘any necessary force’ to stop the demonstrations. Malawi’s worst Minister of Information since 1994 has also joined his demented boss by informing Malawians that ‘no permission will be granted for demonstrations’.
Mutharika gave the unconstitutional order at an event marking the launch of MDF ‘warships’ in Mangochi. The order has excited the overzealous DPP paid cadres to the point of conveniently forgetting that this is not the first time Mutharika has issued such threats since Malawians started demonstrating to demand the resignation of MEC chairperson Justice Jane Ansah for presiding over a controversial election.
Mutharika has several times before issued similar threats that were ignored by angry Malawians. On 6th July 2019, a day that marked Malawi’s 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, Mutharika accused the demonstration organizers of plotting to oust ‘his government’ and warned that the organizers ‘will be dealt with severely’. He said, “we will hold each one of them accountable, force will be met by force and this nonsense will come to an end.”
To actualize his threats, Mutharika sent his party cadets on the streets to terrorize protesters in full view of the police. However, professional MDF soldiers saved the day after beating the hell out of the cadets. The cadets coiled back to their masters who sent them to cause havoc. The police also had a try at terrorizing peaceful protesters but a few kicks by MDF soldiers showed them the correct way of doing things.
Then Mutharika tried using former Inspector General of Police, Rodney Jose, to stop the demonstrations. In a shameless show of ignorance and arrogance, Jose ordered Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to ‘forthwith’ ‘stop convening demonstrations until such a time when it would be possible to convene and hold peaceful demonstrations’.
HRDC ignored the unlawful demand and led angry Malawians in marching in all the major cities in numbers that have never seen before. In all these protests, MDF conducted itself professionally knowing its role as a security agent and appreciating the right to demonstrate as enshrined in the constitution. It’s incredible that Mutharika thinks MDF would behave differently because of his unconstitutional orders.
Mutharika and his party think a president can just issue orders without reference to the constitution. However, a simple chat on these matters with former President Bakili Muluzi would teach him that presidential orders are not indispensable.
The High Court in a judicial review misc. civil cause no. 78 of 2002 ruled that two similar directives made by the former president were unconstitutional. On 28th May 2002 Muluzi issued two directives to the Police and Army to ensure a ban on all forms of demonstration in relation to the constitutional amendment sought to allow the President of the Republic of Malawi to serve unlimited terms.
In his judgement, Justice Twea indicated that the Minister of Home Affairs, the Inspector General and the Army Commander are all subject to the Constitution in the exercise of their power and duties. Justice Twea said, “Section 25 of the Police Act cannot and does not limit the right to demonstrate; it only regulates how such rights, among other things, can be enjoyed. The citizen therefore need only give the Police notice of the assembly etc.”
He further said, “There is no legal requirement that the Police should grant them permission and there is no legal requirement to give notice about who will be addressing or what will be said at the assembly, meeting or procession.” The judge also said according to S.25 of the Police Act, assemblies, meeting or processions at private places do not require Police notice.
He concluded by saying that, “After considering the arguments and submissions before me, I find that there is no law prescribed to limit or restrict the right to assembly and demonstration. I find that the directive of the President at a political rally to limit such rights does not amount to law.”
Therefore, Mutharika’s orders should not be followed by the Police and Army because it is unconstitutional. The statements from the Minister of information should also be ignored. They are unlawful and products of deep lack of knowledge about Malawi laws as well as belief that the executive arm of government can get away with impunity.
Mutharika’s illegal orders and Botomani’s midnight statements show that the temporary government is weak and under pressure. Mutharika is trying to use the ‘strongman’ card used by most African dictators. But it can’t work in Malawi. He saw it working in Zimbabwe a few weeks ago and thinks it can work in Malawi.
Sorry old man, Malawi is not Zimbabwe. Malawi has developed its own kind of democracy. We can protest and speak our mind better than most of the African countries. The laws of Malawi do not allow you to run away from issues by giving unconstitutional orders. You have two choices; act on our demands or be toppled by citizen power!
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Publisher or the Editor of Maravi Post