“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.—John 8:32-34
This past week the Inspector General (IG) of Police asked organisers of the August 6 2019 One Million March to call off the protest. To emphasise his point, he held a press conference where he was escorted by the Malawi Defence Force Commander.
It is undemocratic for the police and Army chiefs to attempt to stop a demonstration. Assembling to demonstrate is a constitutional right enshrined in our Republican Constitution.
The purview (range of operation, authority, control, concern or mandate) of the IG and his men is to protect all citizens and residents of Malawi while the Army Commander has the mandate of ensuring the integrity of our borders is maintained. Perhaps the two security chiefs should be reminded that the protection of Malawians is irrespective of the political, religious affiliations, or origin.
There are reports circulating, especially on social media platforms that the DPP has trained some 5 000 people, given them guns and other weapons. The reports allege that these trained paramilitary people are set to infiltrate any planned demonstrations by the HRDC. The aim of this is to frustrate the demonstrators, label them as confusionists, and violent protesters.
If true, it is undemocratic to form a politically infused paramilitary group in a democratic country like Malawi, with the aim of fighting your own citizens that are protesting abuses of government. The DPP is again reminded of Operation Bwenzani performed by the Malawi Army in 1993 against the Malawi Young Pioneers’ military wing. It is simply undemocratic to give arms to civilians with the aim of harming fellow civilians. The strategy is also putting at risk policemen and policewomen sent out on the streets to do their work of protecting citizens. Some are sadly attacked by angry protesters.
Again, reports on social media platforms allege that discussions are endless on strategies to manipulate or intimidate the panel of justices sitting on the Constitutional Court that is presiding in the ongoing court case lodged by the MCP and the UTM against DPP and the MEC.
It is undemocratic to intimidate or manipulate any member of the Judiciary. The Judiciary is an equal member of government, and any ill intent action against its members is a criminal offence.
In closing, let us consider the ongoing practice of parliamentarians setting their own salaries. This has gone unchecked for 25 years and has become normal practice for parliamentarians to hike their benefits at every sitting of Parliament.
It is undemocratic for elected officials to unduly raise their benefits; sometimes intimidating the Sxecutive branch with threats of bringing the House to a stalemate.
For the five undemocratic traits that are tainting Malawi’s standing as a democracy, there herein are five recommendations.
The first recommendation, is for the DPP to patiently follow through with the court proceedings, stop dilly-dallying tactics, and let justice take its course to make its determination.
President Mutharika must stop taunting his opponents, who won neck-to-neck votes in the elections. Two thirds of voters did not vote for DPP. It must make every effort and plan to accept the court’s judgement. That is the democratic thing to do.
The second recommendation is for the police to know and follow through with its purview, its mandate – protect all people in Malawi, ensure they exercise their right to demonstrate (whatever their grievances). The people have lost confidence in the service because it is serving the interests of the political pundits of the DPP.
To the Army Commander, the advice is for him and his men and women in uniform to protect our borders; of course, a humble plea is made to them to step in when the police are either overwhelmed, or reluctant to do their mandated task of Malawians.
To the parliamentarians, should it become essential to raise the salaries and benefits, such upgrade should be earmarked for the next election cycle. This will eliminate any self-serving interests and the appearance of legalised corruption.
All Malawians are praying that Malawi will redeem itself and become a genuine democracy once again!