Calls for reviews of vagrancy laws such as rogue and vagabond rages on in Malawi with the citizenry making the calls as people continue being arrested feeling ‘innocent’.
The law gives power to law enforcers to arrest anyone who has nothing to do during the day or night and many people have cautioned the motive behind it saying it mainly affects the poor who are underprivileged.
One university student who is a recent victim of rogue and vagabond who opted for anonymity for fear of repercussions cried foul over these laws which he said target the poor and the less privileged at the expense of the elite who are in majority when it comes to patronizing major crimes in and around the country.
He said: “I was with my fellow students that day; we were coming from the Library to our hostels on the other side of the city when these police officers came across us and harassed us. We tried to defend ourselves but we failed and they went ahead and arrested us.”
Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA), Victor Mhango said in an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), that it is high time the country reviewed these laws.
“As CHREAA, we are advocating for the review of these laws. So far we have trained journalists on ethical and human rights friendly reporting of vagrancy issues in preparation for the advocacy campaign.
“As a result of that training, CHREAA partnered with Nation Publications Limited (NPL) to commission its journalists to write articles on the negative impact of police enforcement of vagrancy laws on human rights,” Mhango said.
He also said owing to its nature as a national advocacy project, CHREAA has made a deliberate strategy to engage the media in raising awareness on the impact of the vagrancy laws on the rights of poor people in the society.
“Apart from that we are training police officers and magistrates on the same so that they can fuel up change in the way they handle these cases to avoid victimizing the poor who are in most cases vulnerable to these laws,” he said.
According to Mhango, CHREAA also held a meeting with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale with the sole purpose of pushing for initialization and adoption of prosecution guidelines in which the DPP expressed concern that there was need to do more consultation on guidelines.
She indicated that the guidelines were very important and that she would initiate consultations with relevant stakeholders in order to finalize guidelines in the near future.
Commenting on the issue, the Judiciary spokesperson Mlenga Mvula said Malawi judicial court is overwhelmed with these kind of cases saying most of the time courts just impose fines on the victims of these laws to avoid congestion in the prisons of the country.
Efforts to speak to the National Police Public Relations Officer, Nicholas Gondwa to comment on the matter proved futile as he kept telling Malawi News Agency (MANA) that he would reply in a moment after several attempts.-Mana