The Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale’s appeal asking to ban anti-Jane Ansah protests which Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been organising to force Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson to resign.
The AG sued HRDC for allegedly organising protests marred by criminal and violent activities.
However, in his ruling yesterday, Judge Lovemore Chikopa argued that banning demonstrations would contravene the law and also be an implicit endorsement of the police inefficiencies.
“True, the duty to protect people and property is primarily that of the police. We are also of the view, however, that demonstrators, individually and collectively, have a duty to ensure that there is no violence during demonstrations.
“That demonstrators demonstrate unarmed. In that regard, they are obliged to ensure that as individuals, they are demonstrating peacefully and unarmed. Secondly, it in our opinion, behoves a good citizen and responsible demonstrator to ensure that their neighbours also are demonstrating peacefully and unarmed and to that extent inform the powers that be if such is not the case,” the judgement reads.
Chikopa argued that the police are mandated to provide security to the citizenry.
“Then there is the injunction pending appeal or pending the resolution of the criminality/ violence surrounding the demonstrations. We will also not grant them. Not because there has not been violence or criminality.
“But because there are in so far as the applications are premised on possible violence and criminality better ways of dealing with the violence and criminality. For instance and about the police’s alleged lack of resources the solution is not to stop demonstrations. It is to resource the police adequately. Otherwise, we would be allowing them to benefit from their own inefficiencies,” the judgement adds.
HRDC Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, commended the court’s decision.
“It is clear that the courts have let justice take its course. Malawians have the right to demonstrate peacefully. We have said time and again that the police are the ones responsible for providing security regardless of what particular party,” he said.
Recently, the High Court in Lilongwe threw out an application by the AG asking the court to stop the demos.