BLANTYRE (Malawi NewsNow) – The High Court in Blantyre has dismissed a treason case against three senior opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) officials.
MCP officials Dr Jessie Kabwila, Mr Peter Chakhwantha and Mr Ulemu Msungama were arrested on issues surrounding conversations on social networks which the State argued that bordered on sedition and treason.
But Judge Healey Potani has dismissed the treason case.
Potani also ordered the state to compensate the three.
The arrest raised a lot of debate on the constitutionality of sedition and treason laws in a democracy.
MCP president and leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera alluded to the same in his response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of Nation Address (Sona)
The case has dragged on for a year.
“Sedition laws in their current formulation are certainly a hangover of the one party autocracy. What appears to have informed the content of these provisions in the Penal Code [Sections 50 and 51] was the existence of an imperial government, the actions and policies of which were beyond the reach of sharp public scrutiny and inquiry,” said Mr Khumbo Soko, president of the Malawi Law Society (MLS).
“These laws are couched in very broad terms that potentially unlawfully limit the rights that our citizens have to freely express themselves, to organise politically and to hold their government to account. Their utility in a liberal democracy is rather dubious and questionable.”
He added:“We certainly need to take a fresh look at these laws. First is for the reason that their constitutionality is rather doubtful. These laws potentially limit a host of rights guaranteed to our citizens under Chapter IV of the Constitution including the rights to freely express themselves and to campaign for a political party or cause, to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government and freely to make political choices. A statute cannot take away what the Constitution gives.”
Malawi has no technology to do surveillance on WhatsApp and other social media.