On Monday the Blantyre Magistrates court ordered musician Alfred Chipwaila, better known as Mesho, to go and serve a two-year sentence in jail with hard labour alongside Stephano Emmanuel producer of his now banned song, Mizikiti Ichoke.
It was such a sad moment for the two young men, Chipwaila 29 and Emmanuel 25, when first grade magistrate Asunta Muwalo read out her 25-minute long judgement which was to eventually lead the two creatives to jail.
By composing and producing the song the two attracted the wrath of Section 88 (1) (b) of the country’s penal code which prohibits intimidation. They also found themselves on the wrong side of Section 130 of the same which outlaws writing words with intent to wound religious feelings.
For that, Chipwaila got two years for the first count and a further one year on the second charge. His friend Emmanuel got a year on each count. The sentences are to run concurrently.
Whether it was due lack of professional maturity or proper guidance, by producing the track in question, undeniably the two got it wrong. For all art can do, music in particular, to imagine that the duo decided to dwell on such a divisive theme is imaginable.
There has been so much talk in the wake of their sentencing. Some quarters are arguing that the custodial sentence is just too harsh preferring a suspended sentence. I feel the section advancing this line of thinking have not spared a moment to examine the gravity of their actions.
The message in the song had had the potential to stir mutiny among some misfits who share their low views. Some of the civil feuds that have gone on to divide nations, destroy civilisation, divide families and bring promising economies on their knees started in minute cells like this.
Besides that, Malawi being a democracy as it is, where freedom of worship and association is guaranteed, it folly for one to be pushing for such line of thinking. Malawi is not for some exclusive club, it for all of us regardless of what one believes in. the least we all can do is to learn to accommodate and tolerate each.
And in matters legal, issues of precedence are paramount. By letting these two go for anything less, they could have sent a wrong message to the society. When giving out sentences, the courts also places emphasis on the deterrent aspect.
We never know how many other sick minds we have in our societies who share the thinking of the Chipwaila and Emmanuel. If these two would have been let scot-free definitely the message they could have gotten is that the country’s law enforcing agents are on their side.
With this sentence, any would-be offender has got the message loud and clear. There is no place for society misfits who will attempt to sow division in this country. If any should attempt to go that route then there is only one way for him: jail.
Music as art is so expansive. The latitude for one to express himself/herself is endless. It beats the imagination that for all that huge space, some individuals can opt to use their time, guts, and resources in a very negative way like these two did.
Music has been lauded for its ability to promote togetherness, to foster unity, to exalt love and magnify positivity. Anything which falls short of these values does not earn a place in the category of music.
Let music be music as an art for a good cause. I hope the two have learnt a bitter lesson and that after doing their time, they will come and show us the real artists in the name. if it was about earning cheap fame, then they have done it at a huge cost. n