Key political parties in the ongoing presidential election nullification petition have avoided making a clear commitment on whether they would accept a ruling which is contrary to their expectation.
In separate interviews n Tuesday, M Party, led by immediate-past vice-president Saulos Cilima, who is the first petitioner in the case, and Malawi Congress Party (MCP), whose president Lazarus Chakwera is the second petitioner, said while they welcomed Nice Trust strategy to sensitise the citizenry to accept the Constitutional Court case ruling, only justice will help maintain peace.
The National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust is currently mobilising communities, including religious and political leaders, with a message of peace and political co-existence amid divisions and political violence that have prevailed in the country since the announcement of the May 21 2019 Presidential Election results.
UTM Party spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga said they are a peace-loving party and that is why they went to court to seek justice.
He said: “We love peace and we have told our membership to uphold peace all the time. We are seeking justice and only justice will help preserve this peace. We are not a court, we have trust in the court and we are ready to accept what the court will decide so long it is in the interest of justice.”
MCP spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali cautioned Nice Trust to avoid instilling fear and anxiety that violence was imminent, adding that once justice is served, the citizenry has no reason to resort to violence.
He said: “The only serious concern from MCP would arise on the premise of Nice painting a picture as though Malawians do not know what justice looks like and how the same must prevail. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera is seeking justice on behalf of MCP supporters and indeed Malawians. He and all those who are with him in the court are prepared to embrace justice and that is what will be the hallmark of peace.
“To this effect, in their efforts to cultivate peace, let Nice avoid instilling undue anxiety and or fear in the minds of the general public as though Malawians are living in a wilderness of uncertainty. There is no justice under the sun which would be contrary to anybody because in its form and delivery, justice doesn’t wear any face that is prohibitive.”
Governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister of Homeland Security, said DPP is a peaceful party and refused to take any further questions, insisting he has answered the question more than enough.
He said: “What do you want to hear from me? I have answered this question 50 times and you want me to repeat the same? Just write what I have said before. We are a peaceful party.”
But when pressed to make a commitment if the party would accept anything to the contrary, Dausi insisted he could not engage anymore because he was attending a funeral.
But Nice Trust executive director Ollen Mwalubunju has stressed the need for opinion leaders in the country to spearhead peace among citizens ahead of the Constitutional Court’s determination on presidential elections petition case.
He said this yesterday in Mangochi when his organisation met the district’s opinion leaders to discuss ways of building peace.
“The environment we are passing through is so dangerous. Ahead of us there is a court ruling about presidential elections everybody is ready and eager to see
its end. This determination can be good to one party and bad to another,” explained Mwalubunju.
“Therefore, as influential people we need to sit down and ask ourselves questions: How much have we done about promoting peace among our followers in preparation for the elections results?”
He said Nice desires citizens to accept the results, hence, it has received money from European Union (EU) to engage influential people nationwide to find lasting remedies that preach about peace.
“At the moment we have started with volatile districts – Mangochi, Salima, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Karonga and Nkhata Bay, but it’s a national programme, hence, we will move across,” said Mwalubunju.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has since said it supports the Nice Trust peace-building initiative to prepare Malawians to accept the Constitutional Court ruling in the May 21 2019 Presidential Election case.
Meanwhile, the quasi-religious body says it plans to meet the country’s political leaders in a bid to woo them to back the initiative.
In an interview yesterday, PAC executive director Robert Phiri described the Nice Trust initiative as a welcome development, saying PAC has similar intentions “to prepare masses to practice peace when the court makes its ruling on the case before it”.
He said PAC’s board is expected to meet today to agree on a plan of activities which include holding of national prayers where political leaders will also be invited.
According to Phiri, among the planned initiatives to complement Nice Trust’s efforts, is to invite political leaders to make a public commitment that they would uphold peace even when the ruling does not go in their favour.
“On our part, what I can report is that we will make a formal endorsement [today] because the board is meeting today and these proposals will be presented to the board. We are planning to hold prayers and it is this board meeting which will decide dates and venues.
“In which case different stakeholders will be invited, including the political leaders,
will be part and parcel so that we join the bandwagon in terms of disseminating the message of peace—preparing the citizens to uphold the rule of law,” he said.
Phiri said the board will also decide on whether the political leaders should sign a peace pact, as has been the case in the past, or simply make a public declaration committing to maintain peace when the much-anticipated and historic ruling comes out.
Yesterday, Nice Trust officials met opinion leaders in Mangochi and Salima to discuss how they can build peace in the districts. The meeting followed a similar forum held in Dowa and Kasungu on Friday.
In their remarks, Mangochi District Council chairperson Allan Sam M’madi and Traditional Authority Chowe hailed Nice Trust for the initiative, saying it has come at a time when authorities have also been brainstorming ways of building peace in the district.
Nice Trust programmes manager Grey Kalindekafe said they recently brought together religious, political and traditional leaders and businesspeople in Kasungu to sign a peace agreement.
Chilima and Chakwera filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential election results. They cite alleged flaws in the results management process as a key factor for their case.
Since Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced the presidential election results on May 28, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been holding demonstrations demanding MEC chairperson Jane Ansah’s resignation for allegedly presiding over a flawed election.
The demonstrations have in some cases been marred by looting, violence and loss of life.
Additional reporting by Ayamba Kandodo and Kondwani Kandiado, Correspondents