Protests held over increasing cost of living
Escalating cost of living sparks protests
On 23rd November 2023, protests were held in Zomba over the increasing cost of living, a day after similar protests were held in Blantyre. Human rights activist Bon Kalindo, who was leading the protest, and several other protesters were arrested after the police lobbed teargas to disperse them.
A few days later on 30th November 2023, a similar protest against the rising cost of living was held in Mangochi, led by activist Kalindo. The protesters marched from Mpondasi Trading Centre to the District Commissioner’s Office where they delivered a petition. The protest was however dispersed by police using teargas after people began looting shops and damaging vehicles. At least 45 people were arrested following these incidents.
On 8th December 2023, police rearrested activist Bon Kalindo in Zomba just after he was granted bail for offences related to the 23rd November protest held in Zomba. The new arrest was in relation to the protest held in Mangochi. On 12th December 2023, the Mangochi court granted bail to Kalindo on charges for allegedly inciting violence during the 30th November 2023 protests he led.
Government unexpectedly cuts short partnership with CSO
In November 2023, the Malawian Ministry of Homeland Security wrote to Inua Advocacy, an independent civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for refugee rights in Malawi, terminating its partnership with the group and ordering them to vacate Dzaleka camp.
According to findings by Human Rights Watch, the Chief Executive Officer of Inua Advocacy, Innocent Magambi, said that the Homeland Security Ministry did not give a reason for ending the partnership.
It is believed that the organisation’s advocacy against human rights violations against refugees and asylum seekers during and after the forced relocations to the Dzaleka camp in 2023 was what prompted the government to take action.
INUA Advocacy and other groups published a joint statement in August 2023 demanding a halt to the forced relocations and deportations of refugees and asylum seekers. The groups called for accountability, including the arrest and prosecution of those involved in abuses.
Development Diaries and Human Rights Watch called upon the government of Malawi to respect refugee rights, improve their living conditions and refrain from obstructing civil society groups defending these rights.
Data Protection Bill passed
On 7th November 2023, Malawi's National Assembly passed the Data Protection Bill which seeks to provide for a comprehensive legal framework to regulate the processing and transfer of personal data in compliance with international standards. The absence of such a law in Malawi allowed unauthorised collection and use of personal data, compromising privacy. The proposed law aims to ensure responsible handling of data by government and private entities. If enacted, the law is expected to safeguard citizens from cyber threats and unwarranted surveillance.
Journalist harassed while covering protest
On 30th November 2023, Journalist Raphael Mlozoa had his phone seized and photos deleted by police officers while covering the protest in Mangochi against the high cost of living. The incident occurred as Mlozoa photographed the arrest of a protester. Mlozoa's employer, ZBS, filed a police complaint regarding the officers’ actions.
Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative said:
“Authorities should hold accountable the Malawi police officers who forcibly deleted the photos of police conduct from journalist Raphael Mlozoa’s phone and ensure that such blunt censorship never happens again… Journalists in Malawi should be permitted to cover demonstrations and other events of public interest without fear of harassment or intimidation.”