Malawian man Convicted for Insulting President Banda

A court in the northern Malawi city of Mzuzu on Wednesday convicted 37-year-old Japhet Chirwa for calling President Joyce Banda ‘stupid’ and ‘a failure’.

SavidNews that Chirwa, who was arrested on Tuesday, pleaded guilty to the single charge of ‘conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace’, a misdemeanour under Section 182 of the Penal Code.

Police prosecutor Kingston Mwalughali, told the court that Chirwa, frustrated that the Department of Immigration had rejected his request for a new passport, threw a tantrum, blaming government’s bureaucratic red tape on the ‘stupidity and failure’ of President Banda, the southern African country’s first female president.

Mzuzu’s First Grade Magistrate Lillian Munthali, found Chirwa guilty of the offence, warning that young people should not take advantage of freedoms and human rights to disrespect authority and elders in the society.

‘These freedoms and human rights go with responsibility,’ she said.

Coincidentally, President Banda was visiting the northern region this week.

Pleading for leniency, the remorseful Chirwa said he lost his cool and acted in frustration after having his request rejected by the Immigration department. He promised he would not repeat the offence.

Magistrate Munthali convicted him and fined him 15,000 Malawi kwacha (about US$ 44) or, in default, to serve nine months in jail.

Chirwa paid the fine.

Civil society activists have been calling for a review of laws that protect the name and the person of the President, saying they run counter to freedom of expression which is guaranteed under the Constitution.