The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has demanded that President Peter Mutharika should address the nation on steps he is taking to solve the current political impasse or risk triggering a high level of demonstrations.
HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, in a telephone interview yesterday, said his group was planning to hold demonstrations in strategic places such as border posts and airports if Mutharika does not assure the country of how he is moving to meet demands presented in the six demonstrations HRDC has staged in the past two months.
He said government, during recent demonstrations where a petition was delivered to the President at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, made a commitment to give a public address on how Mutharika will address the concerns raised, chief of which is the removal of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.
HRDC and opposition parties have blamed Ansah for presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Said Mtambo: “We indicated that the next demonstrations will be staged in strategic places such as airports and border posts so that the government gets our message clearly.
“When we presented our petition to presidential [adviser on non-governmental organisations] Mavuto Bamusi , he told us that President Mutharika would address the nation on the concerns raised. Now that the President has not addressed the nation, we have all the reasons to push on with our agenda.”
HRDC says it will hold demonstrations within the precincts of border posts and airports to prevent travellers moving in or out of the facilities.
In a telephone interview yesterday, a security expert Marcel Chirwa said HRDC or any other group can hold their protests in the vicinity of the establishments without any impediments.
He said: “These places could be termed as strategic but demonstrations can still be conducted at such places. It depends on what the protests seek to achieve, but I do not see any limitations unless there was a court order or something. These are public places and can be accessed by anyone.”
Mtambo said HRDC has temporarily suspended its demonstrations to give chance to the courts to hear the ongoing elections case which is expected to sit for about 12 days.
HRDC is pushing the Mutharika administration to fire Ansah following failed attempts to force her to resign which has culminated into a series of demonstrations, some of which were marred by violence and looting.
So far, ongoing attempts for dialogue by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) special dialogue team led by Archbishop Thomas Msusa and another one by former president Bakili Muluzi are yet to bear tangible results.
Asked to comment on the presidential commitment yesterday, Bamusi refused to take questions, referring the matter to presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani.
But when contacted, Kalilani asked for more time to give a proper response to our query.
Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president Chiku Kalilombe said the move would have huge ramifications to the country’s economy, apart from giving a perception of instability.
He said in a written response: “As Ecama, we view these developments as part of the electoral process for the current year. We only hope, therefore, that sooner rather than later, these matters under dispute will be resolved and normalcy in the business and economic environment returns.” Despite pressure from HRDC organised demonstrations which have been supported by UTM Party and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) whose leaders are challenging the results of the presidential elections in court, Mutharika is yet to make an official position in response to the petition presented to him.