The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has condemned the police for disrupting prayers in Balaka last Sunday in the name of fighting the spread of Covid-19.
A statement signed by MCC Board Chairperson Reverend Fanuel Magangani and General Secretary Gilford Matonga says the act is tantamount to disrespecting the church as the body of Christ and a disregard of the Malawi Constitution which provides for freedom of worship.
“The council strongly reminds the police that their act as demonstrated last Sunday in parts of the country are abusive, dictatorial, unconstitutional and unwarranted, granted also that there is a court injunction on the matter of the lockdown,” reads the statement in part.
The injunction obtained by Human Rights Defenders (HRDC) coalition and others has since been extended.
MCC says it encourages its members to adhere to the earlier directives by the Ministry of Health that congregants continue to worship while observing social distance, frequently washing hands with soap and using face masks.
The council also challenges the police to desist from selective justice saying several public places such as bars and bottle-stores and markets remain open.
Speaking after the incident on Sunday, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera defended the move saying religious gatherings had been suspended in the face of Covid-19 and that the police were only enforcing such orders.
HRDC also condemned the incident and indicated it would advise its lawyers to file a charge of contempt of court against Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa.
HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence said the coalition and other parties obtained a court order restraining government from outright banning of church gatherings in the name of fighting Covid-19.
“We have asked our lawyers to look at the matter and if necessary file a charge of contempt of court against the Inspector General of Police because he is not above the law,” he said.