Is throwing tear gas only way to control crowd?

(Various interests groups, including international human rights organisations want the police chief arraigned over the abuse of tear gas)

Judge Mbadwa: This court has been asked to convene at this time because of the crisis we have at hand. Not even the election celebratory rallies could have stopped the tribunal from convening to address the situation that is getting out of hand.

People have been marching, claiming they were robbed of an outright victory. The merits and demerits of that claim is not something this court is addressing today. The constitutional court will be looking at that.

But it is the incessant use of teargas on people who are already shedding tears that their vote was stolen that has made this court convene at this hour.

The Rehabilitation Centre for Human Rights executive director Timoteo Mabingu, who will speak on behalf of the interest groups, sought the indulgence of the court on the heavy-handed manner in which the police handled the demonstrations. This court wants to give you an opportunity Mr Mabingu to explain why you think the police should have done better in crowd control.

Mabingu: My Lord, the police have once again displayed that they have a penchant for needlessly throwing tear gas every time there are demonstrations. Is this what they learn at the police school?

My Lord, the police action in every situation is supposed to be guided by well-gathered intelligence, something that could have prevented the misguided throwing of teargas at Trump’s ambassador.

My Lord, we feel the police are accessory to violence because by resorting to tear gas, they create unnecessary panic on protests, compelling them to defend themselves through the throwing of stones, something that in the process endangers lives of citizens who are not part of the demonstrations.

My Lord, we think the head of the high command has failed in his job for ordering his officers and men to throw tear gas anywhere, at any building and any moving object during the protests.

How then do you explain the tear gas fired in the compound of the embassy? Unless they tell us that they have changed their name to Tear gas Police Service, we cannot accept this kind of behaviour because in a democratic society, the police have a duty to protect both protestors and those they protest against.

Mbadwa: As an independent organ of the Executive, the Police Service is, as guided by the Constitution, supposed to provide for protection of public safety and rights of every person in Nyasaland. They are not only there to conduct escorts of VVIPs and man roads only. Since in exercising their duty, the police are subject to the direction of the court and are bound by the orders of court, this tribunal has found the performance of the police chief and that of his team inadequate in handling protests.

Since the Constitution also stipulates that the political responsibility of the Police Service is vested in a minister, who unfortunately has been conspicuous in absence, the court will wait for the appointment of a new Cabinet before it makes a determination.n

With Emmanuel Luciano

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