An authoritarian and police-state in Malawi is fast crawling in as the administration of President Joyce Banda’s heavy-handedness toward critics takes a new twist.

The Malawi Government has disregarded the Malawi Constitution and has since arrested Malawi Voice’s reporter Justice Mponda for publishing stories deemed SEDITIOUS, FALSE and TREASONOUS aimed at fomenting PUBLIC ANGER against the Joyce Banda administration. Justice Mponda was picked from his house at Chiwembe in Blantyre around 03:00 AM today by heavily armed police officers in 2 armored vehicle.

Mponda was “arrested” without a warrant of arrest. His lawyer, Chancy Gondwe dubbed the arrest as unlawful and unconstitutional. “Justice has been charged for insulting the president”, Said Gondwe who also revealed that Justice has been denied bail.

“In the meantime, the Malawi Police claim that they are still investigating Mponda’s charges. This is unconstitutional as the law demands that the police have to complete investigations before issuing an arrest so that no time is taken before the accused is brought before a competent court of law. However, this is very common with these guys when they want to instill fear in people. They arrest you without charges”.

Joyce Banda vowed that she would be taking Malawians to represent themselves when she globetrots. In Malawi, the President is supposed to represent the people. However, this may not be possible now as president had claimed to being tired of presenting the public.

She further claimed that she will not stop taking personal friends on the government purse when she is globetrotting, arguing that she financially supports such people.

The government spent over 300 million kwacha on one of her trips. This money is enough to run a government department for over three fiscal years.

Like all her predecessors, Joyce Banda is taking a strong stand against press freedom; claiming that the article had compromised national security by insulting the president.

Despite being in a democratic era, Malawi still clings to penal codes adopted during the one party state. Such laws were introduced to prevent people from criticizing the then president, Kamuzu Banda.
These archaic laws are being paraded against Mponda.

The second article reported that civil societies were ganging up against the president for disregarding of the Constitution and poor governance.

The third article which has led to the arrest of the reporter revealed that Joyce Banda pardoned a serial rapist and another serious criminal convicted for murder.

Banda freed rapist Agala Festone Kuiwenga, just a month after the High Court had extended his 8 year sentence by adding one more year due to the gravity of the offence he committed.

She also pardoned George Allan Nyambi, a relation of Senior Chief Nyambi of Machinga. Nyambi was convicted for murder.
Soon after publishing the stories, Malawi Voice was shut down on Tuesday last week. Mponda was taken in unmarked white Toyota Land Cruiser DZ 1969.

The operation which bottled Mponda to the cooler had a team which included a Mr. Njale. “We also confiscated several gadgets like computers and cameras which we believe he has been using to publish the seditious stories,” Njale is reported to have said.

One article which is still being investigated is on Tanzanian’s High Commissioner to Malawi who, is alleged to face a possible deportation from Malawi for claiming that Tanzania owns part of Lake Malawi.

In Malawi, harsh laws were first introduced in 1971 when Kamuzu Banda was declared as the Life President. This was to crack on constitutionally guaranteed freedoms such as press freedom and academic freedom, all of which have come increasingly under threat.

Presumably, we can conclude that Joyce Banda’s regime is taking the same path. During Kamuzu Banda, the convention was “arrest first, rot in jail, and where possible place charges later”.

Mponda’s Lawyer also revealed that Justice is being transferred from Limbe to Police National Headquarters in Lilongwe.
Other notable journalists to have been arrested for insulting the president include Raphael Tenthani and Mabvuto Banda.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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