BLANTYRE, Malawi (AP) — A court in the northern Malawi city of Mzuzu Wednesday convicted a 37-year-old man for calling President Joyce Banda “stupid” and a “failure.”
Japhet Chirwa, who was arrested on Tuesday, pleaded guilty to the single charge of “conduct likely to cause breach of the peace,” a misdemeanor.
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 and blamed the government’s bureaucratic red tape on the “stupidity and failure” of President Banda, the southern African country’s first female president.
Mzuzu Magistrate Lillian Munthali found Chirwa guilty of the offence. She said young people should not take advantage of freedoms and human rights to disrespect authority and elders in society.
“These freedoms and human rights go with responsibility,” she said.
Coincidentally, President Banda was visiting the northern region this week.
In mitigation, the remorseful Chirwa pleaded with the court for leniency, saying he lost his cool and acted in frustration after his request was rejected by the Immigration Department. He promised he would not repeat the offence.
The magistrate fined him 15, 000 Malawi kwacha (about $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.