Former president Bakili Muluzi has moved to quell the post-election tension in the country by inviting Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leadership to a meeting today to find “a civil solution” to protests.
In a letter dated July 22 2019 addressed to HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, Muluzi, who served as the country’s first multiparty president from 1994 to 2004, said he was concerned with HRDC’s calls for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and subsequent calls for continued nationwide demonstrations to push the cause.
Reads the letter in part: “As a former head of State of this country, I am equally concerned about the current situation. I feel obliged and duty-bound that we find a civil solution to curtail the prevailing situation, initiate conversations and dialogue.
“To this effect, I am calling for a meeting with you and your team on Tuesday, 23rd July 2019.”
Besides Muluzi, State-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has also offered to mediate in the post-election stalemate.
In its letter to HRDC, the human rights watchdog said: “The commission condemns these merciless and irresponsible developments of violence in the strongest terms possible. The commission does not believe that violence can solve the current dispute.”
The developments have since prompted HRDC to cancel today’s planned nationwide demonstrations to force Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, to resign as MEC chairperson.
While announcing the cancellation, Mtambo on Monday said the Thursday demonstrations will, however, proceed as planned.
He said HRDC is open to dialogue whenever there is a misunderstanding.
Said Mtambo: “But what we hate is manipulative dialogue. If they are serious, let them prove it and we will avail ourselves.”
Since May 27 when Ansah declared President Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709 votes representing 38.57 percent followed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes representing 35.41 percent with the country’s immediate past vice-president Saulos Chilima of UTM Party finishing third and ahead of four other aspirants with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent, tension has engulfed the country and, in some cases resulting in protests marred by looting and violence.
The Constitutional Court is on July 29 this year scheduled to start hearing a petition seeking nullification of the presidential election results filed by Chilima and Chakwera.
In the case, Chilima is the first petitioner and Chakwera the second petitioner while Mutharika, by virtue of being the declared winner, is the first respondent with MEC as the second respondent.
Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a quasi-religious body formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government, is also mediating in the post-election stalemate and has since met Chilima and Chakwera and is set to re-engage Mutharika, according to PAC mediators team leader Archibishop Thomas Msusa.
State House indicated that Mutharika was yet to be given proposed dates for a dialogue meeting with PAC after the initial meeting was cancelled at the eleventh hour in May this year due to logistical challenges.
In 2014, PAC also played a role in opening dialogue among contestants to resolve the election stalemate, again relating to the presidential contest.