The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has announced plans to hold a fresh nationwide protest in March against what they call prevailing corruption and impunity under the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration.
HRDC says the issues to be raised during the demonstrations including the K53 billion claim at the Immigration Department, political violence and killings of people with albinism.
The rights defenders have set the demonstrations for March 20 which is just four weeks before the much anticipated tripartite elections.
But government spokesperson Henry Mussa, who is also Minister of Information, yesterday said if HRDC has evidence of any wrongdoing in the immigration case should report to relevant authorities than resorting to demonstrations.
In a statement read at a press briefing in Lilongwe HRDC deputy chairperson Gift Trapence said the latest revelation of K53 billion claim at the Immigration Department is an indication of escalating levels of ‘Executive thieving and impunity’ which must be denounced.
“We at HRDC take this opportunity to set the record straight, here and now, that we will not tire nor be intimidated to speak truth to power. We denounce the Democratic Progressive Party orchestrated Executive thieving, corruption and impunity” reads part of the statement.
About two weeks ago, our sister paper The Nation exposed two private firms that signed uniform supply deals with the Immigration Department in 2012– bloated the bill to five times the agreed contract.
The two–Africa Commercial Agency and Reliance Trading Company-signed a K9 billion contract in March 2012 for uniforms they never supplied for five years only to raise the contract sum to K53 billion in 2017 – a sum which has the Immigration Department is protesting.
“This is further evidence that this government is corrupt. We have unresolved issue of K145 million involving the State President, his party and Zameer Karim and now we have this issue of K53 billion claim.
“We ask the government to cancel this dubious contract now or else we will seek legal intervention to have it cancelled. This is taxpayers’ money which must be protected,” said Trapence.
At the briefing, members of HRDC also called on the Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate allegations that Secretary for Health Dan Namarika and other members of staff bought themselves cars from the ministry in a suspicious auction which amount to conflict of interest and violates the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act.
The activists accuse the DPP–led government of conniving with business people of Asian origin to siphon public money through dubious contracts.
“We are also still waiting for answers on how 4.2 million litres of fuel at the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi vanished into thin air,” further reads the statement.
A highly charged–HRDC member Happy Mhango who leads the Northern Region chapter said they have lost confidence in the Mutharika government which is ‘sleeping on the job’ as the country continues to face multiple challenges including political violence and killing of people with albinism.
He said increased cases of political violence and killing of people with albinism is a case of what he called ‘leadership paralysis’ which Malawians must fix in May 21 elections.
The planned March 20 demonstrations will be third organised by HRDC since last year to petition Mutharika over governance concerns.
The CSOs had the first nation wide protest in April another in September which Mutharika mocked as only a handful people attended.
In a telephone interview yesterday, political analyst George Phiri questioned the timing of the demonstrations, saying HRDC should have waited until after elections.
“HRDC is raising pertinent issues of national concern. But they need to be strategic. How does government address the issues they have highlighted within the remaining time before elections?” he said.
But responding to the concern Mussa urged HRDCs to report their suspected cases of corruption to relevant bodies such as Anti Corruption Bureau (ABC) instead of making wild claims at a press briefing or demonstrations.
“If they see something wrong in the issue K53 billion let them report to ACB instead of generalising that there is corruption in government,” he said. n