Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), a founding member of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), has urged its followers not to attend PAC’s peaceful demonstrations this Wednesday.
MAM Board of Trustees, its executive, regional and district committees told the media yesterday in Blantyre that they will not attend the march because doing so will be going against their doctrine of peace, contact and dialogue.
The association’s publicity secretary Sheikh Dinala Chabulika said while MAM is not against the tabling of the Electoral Reforms Bills, they believe that there is need for mass sensitisation for the public to understand the Bills better before they can be tabled in Parliament.
Chabulika, who further emphasized that government should not be pressured to table the Bills, said there is a sign of commitment from government as it has already circulated three Bills to be tabled; hence, MAM is confident that the other Bills will also be tabled.
Said Chabulika: “As MAM, we would like to make it clear to the whole nation that we don’t have any problem with the Electoral Reforms Bills. MAM is for that provided people are civic-educated so that they should understand them. Again, as MAM we would like to appeal to all Muslims from Nsanje to Chitipa not to participate in the demonstrations and give dialogue a chance.”
Taking his turn, one of MAM’s trustees, Paramount Chief Kawinga, wondered what will be the benefit of holding the march across the country when previous marches have turned ugly and yielded nothing in particular.
He said: “If they do not agree on the Electoral Reforms Bills, are we going to march every day?”
MAM national chairperson Sheikh Idrissah Muhammad quashed suspicions that they might have been ‘bought’, saying they are satisfied with their way of living.
“We are not poor people, we are not madobadoba [beggars]. We cannot be bought, as a matter of fact, we are the ones who can buy others,” he said.
But in a separate interview, PAC executive director Robert Phiri, while insisting that they respect the decision by MAM, said the scenario does not mean there is conflict within PAC as MAM’s decision is based on the Muslim doctrine.
He said: “I think as PAC, we are not trying to compel every Jim and Jack to join the march. Constitutionally, everyone has a right and we respect the position of MAM.”
In an interview yesterday, Chancellor College political science lecturer Ernest Thindwa said the development exposes a weak link between PAC and its affiliates, which allows external forces to creep into its internal affairs.
He said: “Beyond that, it also constitutes politics within PAC. Remember that these religious groups have their own individual interests.”
In the wake of the decision by PAC to hold the demonstrations, more faith groups have also drummed up support for PAC, rallying their congregants to engage in the demonstrations that aim to protest against government’s failure to table the Electoral Reforms Bills in the current parliamentary meeting as promised.
The Electoral Reforms Bills include an amendment of Section 80 (2) of the Constitution and Section 96 (5) of the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act proposing a 50 percent plus 1 percent majority in presidential election and an amendment of Section 81 (3) of the Constitution for the swearing in of the President and Vice-President to be done after 30 days.
PAC marched to Parliament last month to deliver a petition to President Peter Mutharika and the Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya.
In their petition, PAC gave the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led government until November 29 to have the set of six Bills tabled, failing which PAC would schedule a peaceful demonstration in the country’s major cities.
MAM, an umbrella body of the Muslim community in Malawi which also sits on the quasi-religious grouping governance body, says such demonstrations contravene the teaching of the Holy Quran–the central religious text of Islam, and the teaching of their Prophet Muhammad.