Malawi: Analysts Say Utm's Kalindo Arrest Smacks Harassment - MP Charged for Insulting Malawi President Over 'Mutharika Wapenga' Chants

11 January 2019

Political commentators have said the arrest of UTM director of youth Bon Kalindo on charges of inciting violence and insulting the President smacks of bias and persecution against opposition political figures.

Kalindo, who is also Mulanje West legislator, was arrested for alleged disorderly conduct and insulting the president allegedly at Balaka Police Station where two aides of Vice President Saulos Chilima were detained last weekend.

Nation Police Spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed that Kalindo who is also an actor and well known as 'Winiko' has been charged with two offences; disorderly conduct at a police station contrary to section 153(1) of the Police Act as well as insulting the head of State which violates section 4 of the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act.

He is accused of leading UTM supporters in disparaging chants against President Peter Mutharika.

According to one of the video clips circulating on social media, Kalindo led in the chants 'Mutharika wapenga misala [Mutharika is demented]."

However, commentators have described the arrest as biased and that it amounts to persecution of opposition political figures because it is based on archaic and bad laws.

Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali said: "If this is not stopped at the very onset, it has the potential to negatively affect the forthcoming campaign period in readiness of 2019 tripartite elections

"It is ironical to see the zeal and swiftness our police have when it comes to arresting political opponents of the ruling DPP but fail to protect persons with albinism who continue to be butchered day and night. These might as well be the last kicks of a dying horse. DPP seemed to be so terrified with UTM."

Recently, former Big Bullets supporters' chairperson Jomo Osman who is a DPP sympathiser (Cadet) savagely beat up and literary humiliated an MCP supporter for no apparent reason but was not arrested.

Jomo's crime was more grievous as it bordered on intimidation and impinging on somebody's right to free expression and freedom of association both which are enshrined in our constitution.

A video clip showing Jomo's savagery act made rounds on social media and was roundly criticised by peace living Malawians. Everyone expected the police to take action against Jomo but nothing happened.

It was not too difficult to see why police did not touch Jomo. He was left alone because he is a DPP sympathiser. This is why the arrest of Kalindo reeks of uncensored bias on the police.

There are in fact several cases of DPP cadets unleashing violence on innocent civilians and even police officers but have gone unpunished. In December social media went buzzing when a video clip emerged of DPP cadet women throwing stones at officers at Kawale Police Station.

Here was a clear case of conduct likely to cause breach of peace. Here was conduct intended to cause grievous harm on officers of the law. Here was conduct intended to obstruct officers of the law from performing their duties. All these cases are against the laws of this country. But these women, clad in blue t-shirts went away scotch free.

Critics have also questioned validity of the laws used to arrest Kalindo. The crime of insulting the president lacks justification. The protected emblems laws are archaic. They belong to colonial times when there was no democracy in Malawi.

These laws are against the ideals of democracy that encourage freedom of expression. Law experts have long called for repeal of these bad laws because they are counter to democratic.

Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enoch Chakufwa Chihana observes that leaders are insulted because they have not done well somewhere and that this should be accepted as normal practice.

"Much as I agree that the law was meant to bring dignity and respect to the presidency, I feel it's not relevant in modern democracy. There's a difference between the office of the president and the individual holding it," says Chihana.

Other commentators said it is therefore unfortunate that people should be arrested based on laws that are archaic and no longer serve the interests our society stands for. Malawi is a society in the 20th century but being run on laws from the dark ages.

It is important to note that Nyasa Times are not condoning the practice of inciting violence nor insulting the president. The president, as head of state, deserves respect from all Malawians. In fact, politicians should behave exemplary. If Kalindo has broken the law he must face justice just like anyone else.

But governance activists are against applying the law selectively on the basis of which party one belongs. They are against abuse of the protected emblems laws. They are against use of archaic laws that have no relevance to a democratic society like ours.

Commentators argue that the country cannot afford to be quiet in the face of the recent DPP orchestrated police arrests of UTM officials. All signs are clear that in the quest to consolidate power and silence its critics the DPP government has resolved to primitive ways of abusing the Police to effect arrests on opposition leaders. Today its UTM tomorrow it may be MCP or PP. Malawi under the DPP is degenerating into a Police state.

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