The law: the content (by our rulers) and the application (by our rulers)!

In connection with a post about the arrest of Stella Assani and Vincent Wandale, I got this comment:

“If you break the law, prepare to meet the law. None of my business.”

This is an interesting comment that very concisely mirrors the rule-of-law. However it leaves to questions unanswered:

  1. What is in the law? Who decides what is in the law, what is the law, and how is this decided.
  2. How is the law applied? Is it as directly as stated in the comment or is it more complicated?

The answer to question one is supposed to be: the electorate is the final authority, because this is a democracy. But it does not really work that way. The electorate is only consulted once in five years, and in those five years a lot happens. We are being Represented, we are not present ourselves where the laws are made. And when there are elections, we can only chose from a limited group of candidates. When we look at the composition of Parliament, it becomes clearly that everybody does not have an equal opportunity to participate. Parliamentarians are:

  1. Rich, while the largest part of the population is poor
  2. Old while the largest part of the population is young
  3. Overwhelmingly male while the (small) majority of the population is female
  4. Powerful while the majority of the population is disempowered
  5. Educated while the large majority of the population is poorly educated

This shows how only a small section of the population is REpresented in Parliament, and this means that inevitably the interests of the rich, old, male, powerful, educated Malawian is more Represented than the average Malawian. On top of this the Executive (President and Cabinet) holds power over the Legislative (Parliament), through the power of the purse, and by applying other types of pressure. One former Minister (whose name I will not mention because it is George Chaponda) even prided himself in being the Bulldozer! (meaning he bulldozed his interests over other people’s interests). And the Executive, even worse than the Legislative is rich, old, male dominated, powerful and educated. So the democracy is heavily skewed and that means that the laws do not represent the average Malawians interests.

Then we have question 2: how is the law applied? And we see that the law is not applied equally to everyone, but some powerful people place themselves above the law. We know about the murderers of Robert Chasowa (http://www.icla.up.ac.za/images/un/commissionsofinquiries/files/Malawi-Robert%20Chasowa%20Commission%20of%20Inquiry.pdf) But they are not being prosecuted. The murder of Njauju is hardly being investigated. The murders of 20 unarmed demonstrators on 20 July 2011 has never been probed (who gave which orders at which level of the hierarchy at what time? Who decided on the equipment that the law enforcers had available (being guns with live ammunition and not crowd control gear)? Who decided that the Inspector General of Police was not on his post on this most important day?

These murderers are not facing the law. On the other hand, there are over 900(!) suspects of murder on remand in Malawi. Many of them for years (which is illegal!) but they are not being tried. ON the other hand several suspects are out on bail and not being tried either. So it is clearly not the case that :

“If you break the law, prepare to meet the law. None of my business.”

We need more equitable laws, by having more representative Parliamentarians, and we need rule of law applied equally to all concerned. Than that comment makes sense.

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