The Lilongwe City Council (LCC) and the Malawi Police Service (MPS) have granted permission to the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to go ahead with their planned demonstrations on Friday albeit with conditions.
The Council says they have made the decision to give the conditions in view of ‘other important national events’ to be conducted on the same day and in consultation with the MPS.
Among the conditions stated by the Council, the demonstrations will only take a period of two hours and thirty minutes from 7.00 am to 9.30 am at which time they shall be called off and the place for delivery of the petition is the LCC Civic Offices at city centre and nowhere else.
According to a communication we have seen from the Council addressed to HRDC, the demonstrations are supposed to commence from Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout heading to Kenyatta road then towards the Convention road past Reserve Bank of Malawi then Civic Offices.
“The MPS shall provide security to maintain peace, order and ensure strict observation of the law. The organisers shall provide marshals who shall work together with the Police. The demonstrators shall not indecently expose themselves fully or partially.
“In accordance with the Penal Code provisions regarding decency at all times before, during and after the demonstrations or at any place within the vicinity of the agreed route,” reads the communication in part signed by LCC Chief Executive Officer Moza Zeleza.
The letter has also been copied to the Officer-In-Charge of Lilongwe Police Station, District Commissioner for Lilongwe District, The Chief Secretary in Office of the President and Cabinet, Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development and the Inspector General of Police.
It further states that all parties concerned shall timely communicate the resolutions to everyone involved in the implementation of the planned march and that the resolutions shall be binding to all parties concerned.
Vice Chairperson of HRDC Gift Trapence has confirmed receiving the letter but wondered why they have attached stringent conditions for their demonstrations when all Malawians have an equal right to demonstrate anywhere they want.
In an interview, Trapence said: “No one has to prescribe where to demonstrate or not. We will address this impunity of those in authority who think that they are the law itself. Why should it only be ruling party functionaries who are allowed to demonstrate anywhere in the country?
“Is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its followers more Malawian than citizens of this country? We will make sure that freedom of assembly is protected and we are ready to challenge such behaviour in court.”
The HRDC had planned to start their demonstrations from Lilongwe Community Centre Ground via Mchesi all the way to the Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout via Parliament then Capital Hill where they were supposed to present their petition.
Another member of the HRDC Timothy Mtambo in an interview said they will go ahead with the demonstrations but insisted that they will stick with their planned routes.