Granted, section 35 of the supreme law of the land, the Malawi constitution, provides for freedom of expression. Quoting it verbatim, the said section 35 states that “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression.”
However, this is not a blank cheque; rights go together with duties. Let’s put this in context: You as an individual have got the right to life. It, therefore, means that person B has a duty not to kill you. In the same manner, if you have a right, say, to education, it means the state has the duty to provide that said education.
In the case of defamation; every person has got an inherent right not to be defamed; not to have his character maliciously assassinated. This, therefore, means that as you enjoy your right to freedom of expression, a right you enjoy because the state has the duty to make sure that you enjoy the same, you have the duty not defame another person in the process of enjoying the said right to freedom of expression. If you defame someone, the defamed person has the opportunity to seek recourse in court in order to protect his reputation.
For far too long in our country, politicians and members of their families, especially those from the ruling sides, have been subjected to defamation. When they sue in courts, members of the public cry foul, accusing them of using their positions of influence, or their vantage point to suppress freedom of expression.
This is wrong. It has to be fair to both sides. Granted that our politicians, to a large extent, are the reasons why we are still stagnating because of their unbridled tendencies for corruption; it does not imply that all politicians and or their family members are hell-bent on financially ruining this country.
Carrying on the task, Mr. Mbele alleged that the President’s son, Pastor Nick Chakwera, was involved in the covid-19 theft scandal, where through the audit report, it was revealed that one Manja, was involved in the siphoning of government resources in the name of fumigating government buildings during the second wave of the pandemic in the country.
As it turned out, it was not true that Pastor Chakwera, was working in cahoots with Mr. Mainja to fleece government resources via the fumigation exercise. Pastor Chakwera, rushed to the courts, to protect his reputation, via a defamation court suit.
Knowing that he wrote the libelous without due regard to the veracity of the allegations, Mr. Mbele started panicking, issuing apologies in the process. It appears as it turns out, that Pastor Chakwera, has reached a point of no return with the said court action. Through his lawyers, Pastor Chakwera has, a few days ago, filed submissions where he is demanding a whopping sum of MK270 million from Mr Mbele in aggravated damages for the ridicule and loss of reputation as a result of his defamatory remarks.
Whether Pastor Chakwera, being a man of God will drop the suit or not, at least a message has been sent loud and clear, that Malawians whilst enjoying their right to freedom of expression should be doing so responsibly. They must also know that they have a duty not to assassinate the character and reputation of other people; whether those people are in government or not.
People spend years building their reputations and character and it is therefore inane to have the same wantonly destroyed within seconds by unguarded souls simply because they are politicians or because they are family members to politicians. It is simply outrageous and this tendency of attacking politicians and their family members for the sake of attacking them, with no basis whatsoever, save for malice or political expediency, has to stop.
No one deserves to be ridiculed. No one deserves to lose their reputation. Let’s enjoy our right to freedom of expression whilst also owing a duty of care not to assassinate the character and reputation of our neighbor. It’s that simple.
Viva Democracy. Viva Rule of Law. Viva Malawi.