Pressure continues to mount on government to compensate over 19 000 victims of the one-party State, with the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) calling on the leadership to honour the Ombudsman’s report on the matter.
Last November, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma released a report entitled ‘Unhealed Wounds’, which directed the Attorney General (AG) to facilitate compensation to all victims who had their complaints lodged with the National Compensation Tribunal (NCT) for either loss of property, detention without trial or any other form of abuse among other remedies. The directive gave the AG up to January 31 this year, but up to now there has been no response.
MCP’s publicity secretary Maurice Munthali expressed surprise at government’s failure to act on the Ombudsman’s report, which is a constitutionally established body to check maladministration.
“We must govern by the law. Anything that has been directed must be complied with,” said Munthali.
The calls also come just three days before the victims present their petition to the Speaker of the National Assembly on Wednesday, to force government to honour their compensation.
Coincidentally, on the same day, AG Charles Mhango has been summoned by the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to explain his non-compliance to the Ombudsman’s report.
In an interview with Nation on Sunday, chairperson for the group of victims Sangwani Mkandawire said they have resorted to petitioning Parliament after being disappointed by government’s lack of action on the matter.
Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Maxwell Thyolera confirmed about their Wednesday meeting with the Attorney General over non-compliance with decisions of the Ombudsman.
On the other hand, Chizuma said she decided to report to Parliament out of frustration for lack of a response from the Attorney General.
Commenting on the matter, rights activist Undule Mwakasungula said apart from government compensating the victims, there is need for a formal apology from government to all victims of the abuses of the one-party State. He also picked on MCP to take responsibility of the atrocities committed during their 31-year reign.
“It is a mockery to see MCP preaching change when they refuse to apologise for the abuses they committed. And why are they quiet on this issue of the victims?” queried Mwakasungula.
But Munthali challenged Mwakasungula’s reasoning, saying the issue must not be reduced to the political party, but government. He insisted that the government of the day should shoulder the responsibility of the shortfalls of the previous regimes and not the party.
The DPP-led government’s inaction on the matter is ironic. In 2003, Peter Mutharika, then a law lecturer in the USA authored an article—in which he admonished government’s failure to take responsibility and address abuses suffered by many Malawians during the one-party State.