The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has queried the Attorney General (AG) chambers over delays to process compensation claims for people who suffered atrocities during the one-
party rule. But AG Kalekeni Kaphale, in an interview yesterday, said there are numerous issues related to the issue and currently in court; hence, his office is awaiting their conclusion. In its statement issued on May 14 which is Kamuzu Day in Malawi, CHRR acting executive director Michael Kaiyatsa said it is disappointing that three years after the Office of the Ombudsman made recommendations on the issue, progress has been slow.
He said delays to process compensation for the victims is denying them their constitutional right to justice.
Reads the statement in part: “CHRR is deeply saddened to note that none of these recommendations has been complied with by government or the office of the Attorney General. CHRR appeals to government and all responsible authorities to comply with these recommendations as a matter urgency. “In October 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman released a report titled Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds in which it recommended to government that the AG should discuss with aggrieved parties on the amount each person should get in compensation.
There are about 24000 people who lodged claims for compensation from government through the national Compensation Tribunal (NCT)whose 10-year constitutional mandate expired in 2004. The NCT compensated about 500, including some high-profile politicians.
When contacted yesterday, Kaphale said while his office is waiting for the conclusion of court cases, Parliament can also act on the report. He said: “There are several matters in court dealing with that issue and we are waiting for court judgements.
Further, we believe the issue is one fit for legislation and Parliament could do better to legislate over it.”But Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, in an interview yesterday, expressed disappointment over non-compliance with the commendations she made, saying they have tried to engage with the AG to no avail.“I need to say that the directives in the report did not only make directives on compensation, but rather made directives that would have substantially corrected and healed a large part of the wrongs in the one-party regime,” she said.
Chizuma said they have done everything within the law to ensure compliance, and only hope that government will someday adhere to the directives.
The CHRR statement also asks opposition Malawi Congress Party(MCP) to explain how it intends to handle the matter being a “government-in-waiting” to create trust and understanding between itself and the aggrieved individuals. But in a telephone interview yesterday, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the issue is not political; hence, his party cannot say how it will address the same.
He said: “The matter was already tackled, why should MCP speak about it? Is it political? What is it exactly that they [CHRR] want?”In August last year, Chizuma threatened to take the matter to the International Court of Justice if government did not consider compensating the victims. She first submitted the report to Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament in 2017. The committee summoned the then AG Charles Mhango on, who did not appear before them. In December 2018, a group of Malawian returnees, who fled the country during the one-party era between 1964 and 1994, also petitioned Parliament to compel the AG to meet them to hear their grievances.
The claimants are demanding compensation in the range of between K20 million and K30
million per person. In 2003, President Peter Mutharika, then a law professor in the United States of America,
authored an article in which he admonished government’s failure to take responsibility and address abuses suffered by Malawians during the one-party State.