The Constitution of the 242-year-old United States of America has a very enviable provision which prohibits lawmakers from making laws that would infringe on freedoms of religion, speech and the press.
In particular, the First Amendment which its people closely guard and even the judiciary cannot tamper with states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Closer to home, the Malawi Constitution, although barely 24-years-old guarantees every Malawian the freedom to hold, receive and impart opinions without interference not to mention freedom of expression, as indicated in Section 35.
But while holding these rights and freedoms to heart, it is becoming apparent by the day that such freedoms are not guaranteed at all and do not enjoy the protection of those entrusted with doing such, the Judiciary.
Recently, a human rights defender Charles Kajoloweka has been a thorn in the side of many, from the president to businessman Leston Mulli.
While President Peter Mutharika has been tolerant of Kajoloweka to the extent of paying back the K145 million as demanded through the courts, Mulli has, however, not been.
The High Court in Blantyre granted Mulli an injunction restraining Kajoloweka from commenting on his K8 billion claim anywhere, be it social media or the traditional media.
Sure, in addition to freedoms of opinion and expression, there is freedom to seek legal redress where you feel wronged. Mulli is also within his rights. But to prevent someone from speaking and expressing his opinion is going overboard and should not be tolerated.
There will be a time when citizens of this country will have to question the supposed infallibility of our Judiciary, a Judiciary that puts the interests of the highest bidder before suffering Malawians.
How do we think it is acceptable that a court where people go to seek remedies when injured, in this case millions of Malawians, is the same one that infringes on people’s constitutional rights?
When did it become wrong to question the rampant legalised looting that has been taking place in this country?
Malawians should be scared when individuals can use their monetary strengths to deny others freedoms that came with democracy and they are rightly entitled to.
At the height of World War II, US president Franklin D Roosevelt made reference to four freedoms which a person is entitled to and should be jealously guarded: The freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in your own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
If Malawi is to demand transparency and acccountability from the people that they elect into power, they should be free to speak out and express themselves and certainly they should not fear that some individual should take that away, be it the president using some archaic law or a businessman using powers that come with money.
These hard fought freedoms came at the expense of people’s lives and reputations.
The children’s children of individuals who stifle such freedoms of others will be judged harshly and rightly so. Posterity will be the judge of the likes of Mulli and our Judiciary.