Stakeholders say the Tonse Alliance administration is showing disregard to rule of law, which forms part of President Lazarus Chakwera’s style of leadership under the Chakwera Hi 5 mantra.
Youth activist Charles Kajoloweka and opposition Democratic Progressive Party national governing council member Maria Mainja said this during a debate organised by BBC to discuss a wide range of issues on Saturday evening.
They said, while the government has done a commendable job by operationalising Access to Information Act, it continues to throw determinations made by the office of the Ombudsman out of the window.
The panelists also questioned the government’s commitment in the fight against corruption.
While saying law enforcement agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau have been given some level of independence, Kajoloweka said the body is sometimes used to crack down on dissent.
He also said law enforcers have sometimes been used to silence those with opposing views.
“One [way of looking at the] gap is to look at the crackdown on human rights defendants. In fact we have recorded the highest number of cases of individuals being arrested for expressing themselves online more than any other administration since 1994. In the past 18 months, we have not less than 16 cases of people arrested and two convicted for expressing themselves online.
“We have also seen promulgation of laws such as the amendment of the Labour Relations Act that undermines freedom of assembly and freedom of protests. In this country, if you are working, you can only protest for three days and after that your employer will have to start deducting your wages. We have also seen amendment of the NGO law to frustrate and undermine the ability of CSOs to hold government accountable,” he said.
But Minister of Information and government spokesperson Gospel Kazako said the government is doing well in terms of respect for the rule of law.
Kazako said the mere fact that BBC could gather people of diverse minds and debate issues of national importance was a sign that government is doing well in terms of rule of law.
“One would be very surprised because, right now, there is freedom of speech at play. People are able to express themselves, they are able to attack government and speak things from their heart. What kind of freedom are we talking about?
“If we start attacking the laws, then we will be talking against the will of Malawians. Those laws are debated and interrogated by people who are sent to Parliament by Malawians themselves,” he said.