Public Affairs Committee (PAC) says it is hopeful the post-May 21 Tripartite Elections political tension in the country will ease after sharing with stakeholders findings from its first round of shuttle diplomacy dialogue.
Briefing journalists at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) headquarters in Blantyre on Monday after meeting embattled MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, commissioners and the electoral body’s senior management, PAC mediation team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa described the first round of negotiations as successful in that it laid the foundation for the second round.
He said: “We are going to share the issues raised here [during the meeting with Ansah] with the other stakeholders we have met already. I hope it will really ease the tension in the politics of Malawi.”
Msusa, who is archbishop of the Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Blantyre, said the meeting tackled a wide range of issues of national interest, including electoral reforms.
“Today has been a very important day for us, as mediators. We wanted to meet the chairperson of MEC and that has happened.
“We have discussed issues of national interest… Issues like the electoral reforms as we go ahead with politics in Malawi. So, it was very important that we had to meet her and that she accepted,” he said.
On whether the PAC mediation team presented concerns by some stakeholders such as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), which is demanding Ansah’s resignation for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process, Msusa said they dwelt on discussing the future of the country and what needs to be done in the future.
In a separate interview, Ansah, like Msusa, also described the meeting as successful and that both parties were happy.
She said: “Our discussions have gone very well. They have been cordial and fruitful. The issues that were before us, we have discussed.”
But Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, refused to comment on whether she was under pressure from calls by some opposition political parties and HRDC for her to resign, saying: “No comment”.
Before the meeting with Ansah, the PAC team had separately met President Peter Mutharika, HRDC, UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera.
During all the previous meetings, PAC has kept a tight lid on issues tackled.
However, after yesterday’s meeting some sources confided in Nation Online that besides electoral reforms, other issues tackled included how the electoral body planned to handle things should the Constitutional Court hearing a petition by Chilima and Chakwera seeking nullification of the presidential election results rule for or against.
Said one source: “Diplomatically, PAC also raised issues of resignation [of Ansah] through electoral reform.
“The meeting also weighed in on what is the plan if there is nullification, for example, and you have the same MEC. This was another sticky issue. How will things work in terms of acceptability?
“The other scenario put forward was what if the court sustains the same, which requires us to discuss with the parties like UTM and Malawi Congress Party. Will they commit themselves?”
Yesterday’s meeting started almost an hour later than the scheduled 10am after MEC requested that the venue be shifted from Sunbird Mount Soche to the electoral body’s headquarters over alleged security concerns for MEC staff at the hotel.
Following MEC’s eleventh hour request communicated through PAC executive secretary Robert Phiri, Msusa and his team, who had already taken seats by 9.30am at the hotel, left the venue.
At MEC offices, the team went straight into the meeting room at 10.50am.
Since May 27 this year when MEC declared Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 740 votes, representing 38.8 percent, the political temperature has risen, with nationwide demonstrations which in some cases have been marred by looting and violence.
Reacting to the efforts by PAC, Lilongwe-based political scientist Godfrey Pumbwa commended PAC for meeting all the stakeholders of the current political crisis which he believed will help to resolve the post-election stalemate.
He asked PAC to let the nation know in time what it has been discussing with all the parties.
Phiri described the dialogue to date as successful, saying the quasi-religious body has collected positions of the various stakeholders and will report back before setting terms of reference for mediation.
He said: “The exercise has been a success because we have managed to establish the respective positions of the parties involved. Now we are fully equipped to meet the President again.
“Many people never expected PAC to meet Justice Jane Ansah, but we have managed. We have completed the cycle of a dialogue processs to pave the way for mediation.”
PAC’s mediation team also comprises members from Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (Qmam) and Malawi Council of Churches.