Supreme Court dismisses Attorney General’s application against demos

The Supreme Court of Appeal has thrown out an application by the Attorney General (AG) to stop the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) from conducting demonstrations.

Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Supreme Court delivered the ruling on Monday.

The AG, Kalekeni Kaphale, wanted the court to restrain HRDC from holding demonstrations arguing that previous demonstrations were marred by violence and the police were not managing to provide security to the public because of the protests.

In his ruling, Chikopa said the violence and criminality that happens during demonstrations can be dealt with using other means, without stopping the demonstrations.

“For instance and about the police’s alleged lack of resources the solution is not to stop demonstrations. It is to resource the police adequately. Otherwise we would be allowing them to benefit from their own inefficiencies.

“But more than that we think the Inspector General could have done more to prove a lack of resources. It is not enough in our view to just stand up and claim a lack of resources. We think anybody can do that,” said Chikopa.

He added that issues being raised in the AG’s application could have been raised before District Commissioners or anyone acting on their behalf who could have granted the same reliefs that are being sought from the court.

“In case of not having been satisfied with the reliefs granted or not granted resort could have been had to the High Court on appeal and eventually to this Court.

“The fact that the Inspector General does not make reference to any meetings or discussions under section 98 means that there were never any such interactions,” Chikopa said.

Another issue before the judge was whether the HRDC was right to hold demonstrations from 18 to 23 September after a moratorium issued against the protests had expired and before the HRDC and the AG’s office had presented resolutions to the court.

On this issue, Chikopa said the matter was best left to the individual consciences of the parties.

The HRDC has been organizing demonstrations demanding Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.  The group will hold fresh protests from today up to Friday.

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