Ministry of Homeland Security has asked government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to claim for damages to property from organisers of nationwide protests to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.
Through a statement issued on Monday, Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi has directed the MDAs to obtain expert reports on the value of losses and damages and estimated costs for inclusion in the legal claim.
The minister has also extended the same to individuals whose property was damaged in the course of the demonstrations held on June 20, July 4 and July 5 to force Ansah, who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, to resign for allegedly presiding over an electoral process marred by irregularities in the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
The ministry’s position comes against a background of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), organisers of the protests and vigils, insisting that they will not pay damages incurred during the protests.
But in the statement signed by Dausi, the ministry accused organisers of the protests of failing to stick to their promise to hold peaceful demonstrations as the exercise was followed by destruction of public and private property, especially in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Rumphi and Karonga.
Reacting to the statement in an interview on Monday, HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence maintained that civil society organisations (CSOs) are not responsible for the damage and violence.
He said the causes of violence, looting and arson took place outside the designated routes for the demonstrations.
But Dausi quoted Section 106 (1) of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) Act as the basis for government’s move to file a lawsuit against organisers and conveners of the protests.
In Mzuzu, a section of the protesters was on Thursday seen breaking into Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) offices. Some also torched a building that housed Mzuzu Agricultural Development Division (ADD), Department of Parks and Wildlife and the Treasury Cashier’s regional office along the Orton Chirwa Highway.
Dausi said government would like to collect data to process the lawsuit.
From the onset, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) counterpart Lazarus Chakwera as well as HRDC leadership appealed to protesters to ensure that the demonstrations were peaceful.
Chilima, who is the country’s immediate past vice-president having served from May 2014 to May 2019, and Chakwera joined the protesters in the marches in Lilongwe on June 20 and July 4.