Despite criticism on its handling of civil society organisations (CSOs) demands, government has insisted that Capital Hill will only respond to current and future petitions through dialogue meetings, where President Peter Mutharika will not be available.
The President returned home from the United States of America (USA) on Monday and scoffed at Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) over their September 21 anti-government protests, which he described as a flop.
Mutharika’s attitude received condemnation from political commentators, who warned him against responding negatively to the CSOs’ demands.
However, the President’s adviser on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Mavuto Bamusi, insisted on Friday that the September 21 petition and any future petitions will be addressed only through dialogue, and not otherwise.
He argued that dialogue remains the most mature way of engaging on issues, as it fosters mutual accountability, consolidates democracy, creates a platform for collective definition of national interest, and deepens prospects for sustainable development.
Said Bamusi: “The CSOs must book a proper audience with the President if all they wish for is an audience. Otherwise, the President cannot dialogue with the HRDs on matters that are purely technical in nature.
“Pushing for the President to be on this dialogue is to expect too much from the Head of State and is a clear indication that the HRDs are simply playing cheap politics not to be done by bona fide CSOs leaders.”
But, in an interview on Friday, HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence said it was important to note that the CSOs already made a special request to Mutharika through a letter sent to the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC).
“The government should just go to its file and respond to this special request that was already made. As HRDC, we are ready to meet the President in line with the letter we sent already,” he said.
Trapence noted that Government is playing politics, thinking that Malawians will forget about corruption and other related issues raised in the September 21 petition.
“If the Government was committed to dialogue this could have been done a long time ago. Let the Government be committed and bring key people to the discussion, including the President and his ministers,” he added.
In their petition delivered in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba cities, the petitioners, among other challenges, said the citizenry was awaiting government action to address the plunder of public resources, persistent power blackouts and rising unemployment.
The petition was a follow up on an earlier 10-point petition presented on April 27 this year.
Prior to the demonstrations, government extended an eleventh-hour invitation to the CSOs for dialogue. However, the CSOs snubbed the talks at the last minute opting to proceed with the protests.