President Peter Mutharika has finally granted the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) an audience today to update him on the outcome of the dialogue meetings it held with various stakeholders in the post-election impasse.
Both presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani and PAC executive director Robert Phiri confirmed in separate interviews on Sunday, saying the meeting is scheduled for Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe from 2pm.
Kalilani said the quasi-religious grouping wants to give Mutharika feedback on its first-round dialogue meetings with some key stakeholders during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “You remember PAC requested for an audience with the President. I can confirm that the audience has been granted.
“Basically, PAC wants to give him feedback on the dialogue meetings with stakeholders.”
Through its six-member mediation team, PAC, formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government, first met Mutharika on August 2 2019 at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
The team later engaged Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, UTM Party leader SaulosChilima, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leadership and the embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.
Phiri, on the other hand, said the mediation team will tell Mutharika what exactly transpired when it engaged the main political players to contain the stand-off.
He said the team embarked on a dialogue initiative to pacify the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition parties disputing the May 21 Tripartite Elections results, especially in the presidential race.
But since the dialogue meetings started, PAC and all other parties have remained tight-lipped on the outcome of their meetings, only describing them as “very cordial, truthful and constructive”.
However, addressing journalists after meeting Ansah at MEC head office in Blantyre on September 30 2019, PAC mediation team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa said he was hopeful the political tension would ease after sharing with stakeholders findings from its first round of shuttle diplomacy dialogue.
Msusa, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Malawi, described the first round of negotiations successful as it laid the foundation for the second round.
Commenting on the negotiations in an earlier interview with The Nation, political scientist Ernest Thindwa from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, observed the success of the dialogue would depend on the interest of the stakeholders.
He said the stakeholders’ interest at the moment is polarised; hence, making things difficult for them to have a common ground.
“I don’t see the key stakeholders having incentives to have an agreement with each other. It appears each side of the political divide has fixed and polarised positions and they don’t want to move an inch, so bringing them together would be extremely difficult.
“Everybody is looking at the costs and benefits and it looks like the costs for agreeing are much more than the benefits. So, the outcome of the mediation is really less likely to be promising and I don’t have much to say something fruitful can come out of it,” he said.
The PAC mediation team comprises Msusa from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi as team leader, Sheikh Ali Kennedy from the Muslim Association of Malawi and Pastor ToweraMasiku from Evangelical Association of Malawi.
Others include Sheikh Amir JafaarKawinga of Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi, Malawi Council of Churches’ Bishop Gilford Matoga and Phiri himself, who is also the team’s secretary.
While PAC rolled out its mediation drive, Chilima and Chakwera filed a petition in the court seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities.
Hearing of the matter ended on Friday at the High Court of Malawi sitting as Constitutional Court in Lilongwe, but the parties are expected to return to court on December 19 and 20 for final submission of arguments.
Since May 27 when MEC declared Mutharika as winner of the presidential race, with 1 940 709 votes representing 38.57 percent followed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes, representing 35.41 percent and Chilima coming third with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent, tension has engulfed the country and, in some cases, resulting in nationwide protests marred by looting and violence.
In 2014, PAC also played a role in opening dialogue among contestants to resolve the presidential election stalemate.