President Lazarus Chakwera is today scheduled to meet Public Affairs Committee (PAC) in a closed-door meeting in Lilongwe to, among others, discuss “issues of national importance”.
Both PAC executive secretary Robert Phiri and State House director of communication and executive assistant to the President Sean Kampondeni confirmed about the meeting in separate interviews yesterday.
Said Kampondeni: “Yes, I can confirm that the President has indeed granted an audience to PAC tomorrow in Lilongwe.”
Phiri, on the other hand, said besides discussing with the President several “issues of national importance”, the quasi-religious group will also use the meeting as an opportunity to outline the role of PAC to the new leadership despite Chakwera coming from a clerical background.
Prior to joining frontline politics in 2013, Chakwera was head of the Malawi Assemblies of God Church.
However, Phiri could not be drawn into outlining the specific “issues of national importance” on the agenda of today’s engagement, saying the PAC board was scheduled to meet this morning to adopt its agenda for the meeting with Chakwera.
He said: “As regards to specific items of the agenda, I am not able to divulge at the moment since the board will meet tomorrow [today] morning to adopt them before we engage the President in the afternoon.
“Again, take note that before we embark on advocacy, we believe in sharing our plans to the State machinery so that what we undertake is not seen as political, but simply following up on their pledges made during campaign and PAC dialogue meetings.”
Prior to the court-ordered June 23 fresh presidential election which ushered in Chakwera as President and UTM Party president Saulos Chilima as Vice-President on the ticket of the nine-party Tonse Alliance, PAC met former president Peter Mutharika and stressed the need for the State to up the game in the management of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sources hinted yesterday that during today’s meeting, PAC would also likely raise the issue of Covid-19 which is worsening with rising cases and deaths.
PAC spokesperson Bishop Gilford Matonga is also on record as having stated that the group was not impressed with Chakwera’s inclusion of some family relations in his maiden Cabinet.
In recent weeks, Chakwera has been meeting with several stakeholders, including secretaries general of political parties.
Founded in 1992 by several religious groups initially to facilitate dialogue during the transition from one-party to plural politics, PAC has been instrumental in its advocacy role despite some quarters accusing it of shifting away from this role and being more political.
Recently, criticisms about PAC’s role have come from some religious leaders within the grouping, politicians as well as other stakeholders, who have since called on PAC to form a political party instead.
Last year, in the aftermath of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections, PAC mediation team embarked on a dialogue initiative in a bid to pacify the then governing Democratic Progressive Party on one hand and Human Rights Defenders Coalition, UTM Party and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on the other hand.
While PAC rolled out its mediation drive, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, who is also the country’s Vice-President, together with Chakwera, filed a petition in court seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities.
The High Court sitting as a Constitutional Court on February 3 then nullified the presidential election results owing to irregularities in the elections management system and ordered a fresh poll within 150 days.