Police on Saturday said they were looking for activist Bon Kalindo for insulting President Lazarus Chakwera during Friday’s demonstrations.
But Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda advised the Inspector General of Police George Kainja that the Lazarus Chakwera administration’s policy position is that freedom of expression is sacrosanct.
A few hours later, national police spokesperson James Kadadzera issued a statement, saying they have “independently decided not to arrest” Kalindo.
The statement further indicated that they will move the court to cancel the warrant of arrest.
The police obtained the warrant of arrest after Kalindo trashed President Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima during demonstrations on Friday in Blantyre.
Said Kalindo: “Timu imene inabwera kudzatenga ulamuliro wa dziko lino, Chakwera ndi Chilima timawaona ngati madolo, koma anthu amene aja ndi makape kwambiri [The team that took over power, Chakwera and Chilima, we thought they would help us, but these people are useless].”
But in a separate interview on Saturday, Chimwendo Banda said he had communicated to Kainja that it was Chakwera administration’s policy to desist from enforcing laws that border on stifling freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.
And in his Facebook post, Chimwendo Banda said he took note of the statement issued by the police on the warrant of arrest for Kalindo.
“I have since communicated this policy position to the Inspector General of Police and I have been assured that they will withdraw the warrant,” he said.
The social media platforms were awash with condemnation of Tonse Alliance administration for its approach on its critics.
University of Malawi professor of law Garton Kamchedzera said in an interview Chimwendo Banda acted within his authority to ask the police to shelve the arrest.
“As head of the ministry, the minister had to privide his government’s poliy position,” he said.
President Chakwera, when in opposition in January 2019, condemned the then governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for arresting the then member of Parliament for Mulanje South, Kalindo.
Chakwera had said: “Whether or not what the legislator said about [President Peter] Mutharika was an insult is not the issue. The issue is that this idea of arresting Malawians, not to say anything of one who is a parliamentarian, for merely expressing how they feel about the illogical conduct of Mutharika’s failed government, is primitive.”
Kalindo has been organising a series of demonstrations against the Tonse Alliance administration, in some instances calling on President Chakwera to resign.
Kalindo has been arrested more than once by the Tonse Alliance administration and has cases pending in court, one of them is connected to making false claims.