Human Rights Defenders Coalitions (HRDC) says it is proceeding with what it calls mega demonstrations tomorrow and Wednesday in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre despite the Attorney General (AG) seeking a court order to stop the same.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe yesterday, HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the civil society organisations (CSOs) pushing for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah will proceed as planned.
The High Court in Lilongwe is today set to rule on an application by AG Kalekeni Kaphale for a court order against the protests.
The planned protests come against a background of a verbal war between HRDC and Malawi Police Service (MPS) relating to demonstrations.
Through a July 26 letter signed by Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose, the police appealed to HRDC to stop holding the protests, citing massive destruction of public and private property as the justification.
Further, the police chief also said the police were overstretched by the frequency and spread of the demonstrations.
However, HRDC stood its ground, saying it would continue holding the protests.
On Friday, the AG applied for an injunction to the High Court to restrain CSOs from holding protests or that if they hold such protest marches, the organisers should pay a deposit of K2 billion to cover damages incurred during the protests.
But Mtambo yesterday said the CSOs will not pay anything as demanded and that they will go ahead with this week’s protests because it is the constitutional right for all Malawians to express dissatisfaction.
He said: “There are enemies of progress who would want to stop Malawians from exercising their right to demonstrate. For us we don’t need to pay any money to exercise our right. As a coalition which believes in democracy and constitutionalism, we say no to that.”
This week, the protests are expected to take a new wave as organisers plan to mobilise over a million demonstrators to participate in tomorrow and Wednesday’s marches to exert pressure on Ansah and her commissioners to resign for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
On whether police will provide security, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said police already made its stand on what CSOs are supposed to do.
During a media briefing police held last Monday, Jose said from now onwards, police will use necessary force to disperse protesters if they choose to defy the order it issued to the HRDC through the letter.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Kadadzera said police will stand by the decision the IG made.
Mtambo said the demonstrations will only take place in the three cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu unlike in the past when almost all districts participated in the march.
He said that in Mzuzu and Blantyre, the demonstrations will only be held tomorrow while in Lilongwe they will spill over to Wednesday as the protesters will hold a two-night vigil between Parliament Building and Capital Hill.
UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, who is also the country’s immediate past vice-president, as well as Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, have consistently taken part in recent protests.
Coincidentally, the two politicians are also co-petitioners in a case where they are seeking nullification of the presidential election results in the May 21 Tripartite Elections for alleged flaws, especially in the results management system.