Lazarus Chakwera assents to 6 bills
By Cathy Maulidi:
President Lazarus Chakwera has assented to six bills namely the Penal Code (Amendment), Roads Authority (Amendment), Electoral Commission (Amendment), Protected Flags, Emblems and Names, Fertiliser Bill and Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections.
The bills were passed in the previous meeting of Parliament and were sent to the President for assent.
One of the assented bills, namely the Protected Flags, Emblems and Names, was passed on November 29 2022 after members of Parliament amended Section 4 of the Protected Flags, Emblems and Names Act of 1967 by removing the word ‘President’ from the Act.
The removal of the President’s name was meant to decriminalise sedition-related offences.
However, flag, emblems and some names were left intact so that they can be protected from ‘insults’.
Media Institute of Southern Africa-Malawi has been pushing for the tabling, passing and assenting of the bill.
As such, its chairperson Teresa Ndanga has lauded Chakwera for assenting to the bill.
“We are making great strides in as far as creating an enabling legal environment for freedom of expression and media freedom in Malawi is concerned. We applaud Parliament and the President for the same. We hope that people will no longer be arrested for such crimes and that people can responsibly express themselves. We hope that the government can continue on this path in reviewing laws we have expressed concern over,” Ndanga said.
Also assented to is the Fertiliser Bill, which seeks to regulate players in the fertiliser industry and protect farmers from being subjected to exorbitant fertiliser prices.
One of the provisions of the Act paves the way for the establishment of a fertiliser plant in the country.
Chairperson for the Agriculture Committee of Parliament Sameer Suleman is hopeful that things will change following the President’s action.
“We have been waiting for this [development] for a long time. It is, indeed, a good development. I hope that this will be implemented soon and that necessary changes should be made as soon as possible. It is our hope that, through this bill, we can have our own fertiliser plant.
“Ministry officials should facilitate the changes and we, as Parliament, stand ready to assist where necessary,” Suleman said.
On the other hand, the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill will strengthen operations of the electoral body as well as improve efficiency and credibility of elections in the country.
The Penal Code [Amendment] Bill will, on the other hand, decriminalise sedition.
The assented Roads Authority Amendment Bill will, on its part, provide strategies for coming up with a professional roads authority.