Defendants in the Mahatma Gandhi bust case yesterday asked the court to set aside with costs, an injunction granted to Pemphero Mphande and Mkotama Katenga-Kaunda for stopping erection of the bust.
The two are leading a protest against the erection of the bust, arguing that Gandhi has had no impact on the country to deserve such an honour.
But through lawyer Bruno Matumbi, the defendants—Blantyre City Council (BCC), the Attorney General (AG) on behalf of Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, and Plem Construction asked the court to set aside the injunction on the premise that the duo has no basis of their claims.
In his submissions to the court before Judge Mike Tembo, Matumbi argued that there was suppression of material facts by the duo as they based their arguments entirely on the premise that Gandhi was racist, which is not balanced as his good side could have also been presented before the court to make an informed decision.
Matumbi told the court that Gandhi was a great man who did other great things such as advocating gender equality, denouncing terrorism, abortion and was influential to some people.
He argued that the duo’s claim that Gandhi has had no impact on Malawi is immaterial as at that time, he was fighting for Indian people’s rights and it was not possible to do so for all races.
However, the court failed to hear the claimants’ side as their lawyer, Nicely Msowoya, communicated to the court that he had a breakdown along the Nyambadwe-Magalasi Road and could not make it in time.
But despite the absence of Msowoya, judge Tembo told the court the hearing would still proceed considering the time factor.
After hearing the arguments from Matumbi, Tembo said the court would make its determination in due course and that parties involved would be communicated on the dates.
In an interview after the hearing, Matumbi described the injunction as “being misguided”.
“We believe this injunction is just a misguided sense of nationalism coming out as intolerance. We are supposed to live in peace and we have to tolerate each other’s views and in the Constitution, there is no right to be offended, there is actually a provision of duty to tolerate people’s views,” he said.
In a separate interview, Mphande said it was unfortunate that the defence team alluded to suppression of facts in justifying their plea to have the injunction dismissed.
In the Civil Case Number 341 of 2018, Mphande and Katenga-Kaunda are the first and second claimants while BCC, the AG (on behalf of Ministry of Information and Communications Technology) and Plem Construction are the first, second and third defendants respectively.
The court granted the duo an injunction weeks after a movement protesting the project mobilised about 5 000 signatures for a petition to stop BCC and the Indian government from constructing the bust.
The erection of the bust of the fallen Indian nationalist leader was per an agreement by the Indian government to construct an international convention centre in Blantyre.