A High Court in Malawi has dismissed government’s request to place an injunction on all protests relating to post-election disputes in the southern African country.
The Attorney General had petitioned the court to ban the protests which have over the last few months resulted in clashes between opposition elements and security forces.
The court in Lilongwe dismissed Attorney General Kaleleni Kaphale’s application for a injunction against the protests targeting Jane Ansah – the head of the country’s elections body.
Parts of Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda’s ruling read as follows: “As was rightly conceded by the Attorney General, the Courts have held, with an almost crusading zeal, in favour of protecting the right to demonstrate.
“The Attorney General contended that it is high time the Court re-examined the approach hitherto taken by the Courts: the right to demonstrate should not trample the other constitutional rights such as the right to economic activity, right to property, etc.
“…but there must be a co-existence of rights, so he contended. To my mind, this means that until a contrary decision is made in a substantive matter, this Court has to go by the current legal position. In short, the status quo holds good.
“In view of the foregoing and by reason thereof, the application by the Claimant is dismissed with costs.”
Dubbed the “Civil Society Organizations Demos,” the nationwide action is calling for the annulment of results from the last elections which saw incumbent Peter Mutharika declared winner.
The protests have the backing of opposition parties but is championed by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
HRDC Nkhwima Mchizi, says they are happy that the court has ruled in their favour. Their protests planned for today have been taking place and has ended up in violent clashes with police and the army.
Malawi Defense Force soldiers have been deployed to strategic places. Shops are closed and there are a few people in the city, local media portals reported.
In Blantyre, the protests are led by ex-VP Saulos Chilima who came third in the contested elections. A police officer’s house has also been torched by demonstrators in Lilongwe.
There is also a march to Capital Hill (seat of government) with multiple outlets reporting of running battles between the police and the people protesting. Police vehicles have also been torched in some places.