Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has described 2019 as a turbulent year that was defined by the May 21 Tripartite Elections, with negative outcomes such as violence.
PAC chairperson Monsignor Dr Patrick Thawale was speaking in Blantyre yesterday when he addressed the press following the quasi-religious body’s meeting held to review the just ended year. He said the year’s positives were outweighed by negatives as a result of the political uncertainty.
Since Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced the presidential election results on May 27, there has been political uncertainty in the country owing to the disputed elections that triggered demonstrations led by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) which in some cases resulted in looting and violence.
Thawale said some of the positives of the year in question include the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression which were upheld by the courts, the media’s ability to cover various issues such as corruption, reduced killings of persons with albinism and space for civil society.
He further stated that the inclusion of Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers as part of security contingency had a positive impact as it helped de-escalate violence.
But on the flip side, he said the country experienced increased cases of mob justice, the killing of a police officer, undressing of a policewoman during demonstrations, slow progress on businesses that resulted in limited youth employment and economic opportunities and increase in witchcraft-related violence.
Said Thawale: “PAC further observed that cases of alleged corruption negatively impacted the country’s image, signifying a huge political deficit in Malawi’s democratic governance. We underline the fact that corruption erodes economic gains that should benefit all Malawians and exasperates poverty.”
Thawale, who was accompanied by other PAC members during the briefing, described as disturbing trends of mistrust between the police and Malawians, the alleged raping of women in Msundwe by police officer on duty and the death of a suspect in police custody, among others.
As a result of mistrust between civilians and the police, a police officer in Lilongwe, Superintendent Usumani Imedi, was stoned to death while leading a team to restore order.
The PAC chair also touched on the pending presidential election court case ruling which the High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court is expected to make, saying should any party be unsatisfied by the outcome, they should pursue legal justice by making an appeal to the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
In addition, Thawale said irrespective of the court ruling, the country needs to undertake broad-based mediation on the ‘Malawi we want’ so that a common understanding is established on underlying issues.
“However, as PAC, we believe that dialogue is a better mechanism for achieving durable solutions and peace,” he said.
While calling on all Malawians to respect the outcome of the court ruling, Thawale further emphasised the need for promotion of peace at all times.
Following the political stalemate, PAC mediation team embarked on a dialogue initiative in a bid to pacify the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), HRDC and opposition political parties disputing the elections results, especially in the presidential race.
While PAC rolled out its mediation drive, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera filed a petition in court seeking nullification of the presidential results over alleged irregularities.
However, last month, the mediation talks ended in deadlock as parties involved set their demands. Mutharika said he was ready if HRDC stops demonstrations while the HRDC agreed to meet the President but would not stop demonstrating as it is a constitutional right.
On its part, UTM Party said it can only meet Mutharika if MEC chairperson Jane Ansah resigns and the presidential elections nullification petition case is concluded.
In an earlier interview, governance commentator Rafiq Hajat said the court case would only address the legal aspects and not necessarily find a political solution. Hajat, who is also executive director of Institute of Policy Interaction, said a politcial solution would only be arrived at following formation of a government of national unity.