The High Court in Blantyre is tomorrow expected to deliver its judgment in a case in which a street vendor is challenging the constitutionality of rogue and vagabond offence.
A plastic bags seller Mayeso Gwanda is challenging the constitutionality of Section 184 (1) (c) of the Penal Code which provides that “every person in or upon or near any premises or in any road or highway or any place adjacent thereto or in any public place at such time and under such circumstances as to lead to the conclusion that such person is there for an illegal or disorderly purpose, is deemed a rogue and vagabond.”
According to a statement from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc) and the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) released on Friday, Gwanda “argued that the offence of rogue and vagabond results in a number of rights violations, including his rights to dignity, privacy, freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment, freedom and security of person, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of movement.”
The Gwanda case dates back to 2015 and during the last date of court hearing in October last year, the High Court dismissed an application by the State that the court should discontinue the case.
During that hearing, a three-member bench comprising High Court judges Zione Ntaba, Michael Mtambo and Slyvester Kalembera, ruled that hearing of the matter should continue because in terms of rules under the Courts Act, an individual can bring an action to the High Court the way Gwanda did, that is through a referral from a subordinate court.
When the State’s application was dismissed, the court continued hearing submissions from Gwanda’s lawyer Mandala Mambulasa, friends of the court who include Legal Aid Bureau (LAB), Malawi Law Society (MLS), Paralegal Advisory Service Institute (Pasi) and Chreaa. During the hearing, the State also made submissions.
Following the submissions, the court adjourned, saying it would determine a date for judgement after thoroughly looking at the submissions made by all parties.
Gwanda was arrested around 4am in March 2015 at Chichiri near a bus stop while walking from Chilomoni Township along the Masauko Chipembere Highway going to Limbe.
With plastic bags in hands, he was stopped by police and asked where he was going. He explained but was later taken to Soche Police.
He was later taken to court and was charged with rogue and vagabond.