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, says progress in its post-May 21 Tripartite Elections mediations awaits President Peter Mutharika’s availability.
PAC mediators team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa said in an interview that after the first level of dialogue with UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, the team has extended another invitation to Mutharika.
He said: “At the moment, the [PAC] secretariat is working on fresh arrangements on the dialogue with the Head of State.
“Secondly, PAC secretariat has to work on scenarios on what will be the necessary interventions after the court has ruled either way in the electoral [petitions] case.”
But State House yesterday indicated that Mutharika is yet to be given proposed dates for a dialogue meeting that was cancelled at the eleventh hour in May this year due to logistical challenges.
In a written response, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani yesterday confirmed the President’s commitment to meet the PAC delegation.
He said: “Yes, I can confirm that PAC requested for an audience with the President within the first week after the 2019 elections. However, the agenda of the meeting was not communicated.
“The President granted them the opportunity, but unfortunately the meeting did not materialise due to some logistical problems on the part of PAC. The President directed his adviser on religious affairs to look at the possibility of rescheduling the meeting.”
When asked on the rescheduling, presidential adviser on religious affairs Apostle Timothy Khoviwa said PAC, which proposed the meeting, would be better-placed to set the dates.
The PAC mediation team comprises members from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (QMAM) and Malawi Council of Churches (MCC).
Led by Msusa, who is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Blantyre of the Catholic Church, PAC embarked on a dialogue initiative in a bid to pacify the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition parties disputing the May 21 Tripartite Elections results, especially in the presidential race.
While PAC rolled out its mediation drive, Chilima and Chakwera filed a petition in the court seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities.
Msusa said the PAC mediators were pleased that during the meetings with UTM and MCP leadership, the Lilongwe Peace Declaration document was a point of reference and that one of the outcomes was the use of complaint mechanisms by the two parties through seeking legal redress.
He said: “But as the situation evolves, we believe that there could be potential for other issues to be settled politically.”
In a telephone interview yesterday, political commentator Humphrey Mvula said the initiative by PAC was still relevant despite the elections case being in court if the country was to heal from political fragmentation brought about by the elections results.
He said: “In my view, mediation is a must, especially at this moment when our national unity has been put to an ultimate test. Looking at the percentage of people who voted for the opposition parties combined, it would be suicidal to dismiss them and believe the problem will just disappear.
“There must be a way of resolving these matters in an amicable way where you allow for all parties to benefit something. I feel President Mutharika has missed that opportunity to initiate dialogue and that is not good for the nation.”
The mediation initiative follows the signing of a PAC-advocated Lilongwe Peace Declaration by six of the seven presidential candidates on May 4 this year in the run up to the May 21 polls. Mutharika did not sign as the ceremony clashed with his scheduled travel to the Northern Region.
In the aftermath of the May 21 Tripartite Elections and the tension that ensued, especially surrounding the announcement of the presidential results, PAC embarked on a mission to engage presidential candidates to find a solution to the electoral impasse.
In an earlier statement jointly signed by board chairperson the Very Reverend Felix Chingota and publicity secretary Reverend Father Peter Mulomole, the body said since May 22 it held face-to-face and telephone conversations with some of the presidential candidates to learn more on the challenges facing the result management system.
In 2014, PAC also played a role in opening dialogue among contestants to resolve the election stalemate, again relating to the presidential contest.
The peace declaration serves as a goodwill document for dialogue, mediation and political settlement should things go wrong after voting.