High Court Judge Dingiswayo Madise has said it is high time the country got rid of colonial vagrancy laws, arguing Malawians have suffered enough persecution due to continued application of the laws.
Vagrancy laws cover a wide range of activities and crimes such as loitering, prostitution, drunkenness, idleness and disorderly conduct.
Hundreds of people are arrested when police effect the laws despite widespread condemnation.
Ironically, it is the courts that convict, sentence or acquit people who have been charged with rogue and vagabond and other offences. Some people have ended up in jail for loitering at night while others have paid fines.
Speaking during a debate at Mzuzu University (Mzuni) organised by Centre for Human Rights, Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) on Friday night, Madise said vagrancy laws are vague and discriminatory. He wondered why the arrests tend to mostly target women and those deemed to be poor.
“Enough is enough, we are a civilised nation and cannot continue to maintain laws that are discriminatory,” said Madise.
He also said police invade rest houses and pubs to effect arrests while hotels and other high class entertainment places are left to operate freely
Central Region Commissioner of Police George Kainja warned that scrapping off such laws will only bring chaos in the country and Malawians will regret the rate at which the country will be hit by crime. address them.
Chreaa programme manager Chikondi Ngwira said police should find other ways of arresting suspected criminals. She said arresting vulnerable people in sweeping exercises only violates rights of others.
Northern Region Prisons commanding officer Mahlatini Moyo said judges should give community service sentences for such offences until the laws have been reviewed.