Officials in Malawi have locked horns over the controversial ban on farting in public.
The prohibition forms part of the Local Courts Bill, due for introduction next week. The legislation has the backing of justice minister George Chaponda, who said the clampdown on unruly bowels would promote "public decency".
According to the BBC, Chaponda did some straight talking on local Capital Radio's Straight Talk programme when he declared: "Just go to the toilet when you feel like farting."
As Chaponda sees it, the law will be enforced in a similar way to that banning public urination, with local chiefs tasked with bringing noxious gasbags to justice.
However, the minister has been challenged by solicitor general Anthony Kamanga, who reckons Chaponda's interpretation of the offending Local Courts Bill clause is taking the piss.
Said clause declares: "Any person who vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the public to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way shall be guilty of a misdemeanour."
Kamanga asserts that this refers to pollution. He said: "How any reasonable or sensible person can construe the provision to criminalising farting in public is beyond me."
Whether Malawi becomes the first nation to outlaw the trouser cough remains to be seen, but things are certainly looking rough for flatulent bogus soothsayers, since the Local Courts Bill also intends to come down hard on anyone pretending to be a fortune teller.
Real fortune tellers are, accordingly, advised to write the eventual outcome of the Chaponda/Kamanga stink on a piece of paper, seal it in an envelope and hand it to their solicitor for later presentation to tribal chiefs as evidence of their divinatory powers. ®