Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has applied to the High Court for an injunction to restrict Human Right Defenders Coalition (HRDC) planned demonstrations to outside its premises at the borders.
The decision to seek the court’s relief follows HRDC‘s decision to hold protests at the country’s borders and airports from August 26 to 30, as one way of forcing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.
MRA spokesperson Steven Kapoloma said in an interview last evening the injunction is not intended to stop the protests, but rather to stop people from demonstrating inside MRA premises.
He said: “We are not saying no to demonstrations, but we are saying these are protected areas. We are keeping many valuable goods that are under Customs Control. So, the injunction we are seeking is that demonstrations can take place, but outside the MRA premises.
“They can come to the border, but only up to the gate, not inside the premises. They can be there for whatever period they want, but not inside the MRA premises. Our plea will be heard before the High Court at Blantyre Registry on Thursday.”
However, HRDC lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa feigned ignorance on the matter when contacted last evening.
Meanwhile, HRDC has rebuffed former President Bakili Muluzi on his call for a meeting to discuss the coalition’s plans to hold anti-Ansah protests at the country’s ports of entry.
In an interview following a letter Muluzi wrote HRDC on the matter, the former president stressed he was against the planned protests, arguing they will paralyse the country’s already fragile economy.
An analysis in our sister paper Weekend Nation on Saturday estimated that government could lose revenue in excess of K1 billion in the protests that are targeting the country’s airports and border posts.
Muluzi first met the HRDC on July 23 when he failed to convince the civil society leaders to postpone nationwide demonstrations.
In his letter on Monday, Muluzi first sympathised with HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo whose house in Lilongwe was petrol-bombed by unknown assailants last week, before he delved into the impending protest.
The former leader proposed that the meeting should take place on Friday or Saturday this week, before the planned protests scheduled for next Monday.
Reads the letter in part: “For the sake of this country, may I propose another meeting between your team and myself to find solutions to this impasse. We should endeavour to work at finding solutions that will keep our country together.”
He said after engaging Muluzi last month, they expected him to report to the country on the meeting which he held with President Peter Mutharika so that the citizenry is aware of what transpired.
But Mtambo, while thanking Muluzi for sympathising with him on the arson at his home, said the HRDC has no time to engage in dialogue that lacks clear direction.
Said Mtambo: “We don’t have time to be attending dialogues of convenience. After all that time, why is he coming back to us today? What did they discuss with Mutharika? Why hasn’t he told the nation about that all this while? Now he wants to talk to us again because he has heard of our plans to hold vigils at borders and airports? We will not meet him.”
The HRDC leader added that their mission is to continue reclaiming the country’s destiny from people “who have inflicted so much pain on it”.
But Muluzi later stated he is concerned with the border and airport protests, adding he wants to use the meeting to tell the HRDC what he discussed with Mutharika.
He said parties must discuss the issues first and that only a communiqué from such engagement must be taken to the media, and not the whole dialogue process.
Said Muluzi: “The problem that I have is that in any mediation, you don’t dialogue before a camera. For me to call the media and say this and that, honestly, is that that the way we should go?”
Meanwhile, political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College Mustafa Hussein has said the HRDC is justified to snub a meeting with Muluzi.
“They had expectations that after meeting Mutharika, former president Muluzi would tell the nation what transpired, but that didn’t happen. I would suggest that Muluzi must bring together all players-Mutharika, Ansah and HRDC.
“If not, Muluzi must endeavour to find a common ground on the positions taken by the three players,” he said.
The HRDC has been holding demonstrations since the announcement of the May 21 presidential election results to force Ansah to resign and pave the way for investigations to identify and prosecute those who supplied Tippex used to alter elections figures. Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has dismissed calls for her to resign for allegedly mismanaging the presidential election, saying she would only step down if the court hearing an elections petition case found her leadership to have failed to discharge its duties.