Minister of National Unity Timothy Mtambo has urged against rising xenophobic sentiments following mass protests against corruption suspect Ashok Nair, who has sued Anti-Corruption Bureau director general Martha Chizuma for defamation in the wake of her leaked phone conversation. Our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA caught up with the minister.
:What do you make of last week’s demonstrations organised by Citizens Against Corruption and Impunity?
:The current administration respects the rights to peaceful assembly and demonstration as enshrined in the Constitution. While exercising the right to demonstration, there is need to always stay within the confines of the law. Instigating violence, promoting discrimination, issuing threats, racial profiling, interfering with due process of the law and advancing hate speech is not condoned by our laws. Promoting illegality in any way not closer to exercising human rights. The cardinal principle citizens must understand, including organisers of demonstrations must be rights come with responsibilities. For instance, having the right to freedom of expression does not mean you have the right to insult or threaten others.
Section 13 of the Constitution promotes dialogue and peaceful engagements on matters affecting the country. As we indicated in the press statement of February 26, we encouraged citizens to give engagement a chance before taking matters to the street. We will continue keeping the ministry’s doors open to allow continued dialogue to foster peaceful co-existence, social cohesion and unity in diversity.
Corruption is an enemy of the State and development and we must all join hands in fighting against the vice, so we commend all the citizens participating in the fight against corruption and impunity. The Chakwera administration is very committed to rooting out corruption as clearly stated in the President’s Super Hi5 agenda.
Q: Mentions of some Malawians of Asian descent suspected of corruption has led to a backlash against members of this community. What do you make of the racially charged sentiments gaining sway on the social media?
:The ministry is deeply concerned that there are some citizens who are continuously promoting hate speech, racially motivated violence, and xenophobic statements against our fellow Malawians of Asian descent and the Asian Business Community. This is unacceptable, unconstitutional and should not be tolerated in a democratic dispensation like ours.
While the ministry acknowledges the rights to freedoms of opinion and expression as stipulated in the Constitution, the rights must be exercised responsibly in accordance with the law. They must be exercised without having to infringe on other people’s human rights and freedoms. We would like to appeal to everyone against promoting racially motivated violence and any form of discrimination. Malawi is governed by laws and whatever we are doing should happen within the confines of the law.
When it comes to fighting corruption, no one shall be protected regardless of their tribe, race, political affiliation or any other status. Anyone involved in the vice shall be dealt with in accordance with the law. Therefore, we should not use the fight against corruption as an excuse to start attacking certain sections of the society. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Q: What are you doing to unite Malawians of Asian community who feel attacked for the sins of few and other citizens who feel robbed of land, contracts and power by few members of the community?
: We need to understand that in any society inequalities do exist, but can be addressed through an honest and open dialogue. We must not fear to engage on matters which affect our co-existence. My ministry has organised a series of engagements with Malawians of Asian origin and all concerned stakeholders to address the existing concerns and challenges in a collective and democratic manner.
Malawians must understand that these inequalities have historical roots which need to be addressed systemically and systematically. It is the duty of the government to implement policies which will promote equality and equity of its citizens. In doing so, a nation should always strike a balance, in strengthening the weak but not necessarily weakening the strong.
Q: What needs to improve to enhance national unity?
: One key issue that Malawians need to embrace for peaceful co-existence is tolerance. We need to appreciate that we are all Malawians and we have one nation to serve regardless of tribe, race, economic status, political affiliation or any other status. More importantly, we need to acknowledge the fact that we are a country of laws and our Constitution forbids any form of discrimination as stated under Section 20.
The ministry is implementing various initiatives such as the establishment of National Day of Unity and Dialogue as well as development transformative national values, and various civic engagement initiatives in order to foster oneness as Malawians.