Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has set December 13 for nationwide peaceful protests in the country’s four cities to push authorities to table and debate the Electoral Reforms Bills in Parliament.
PAC executive director Robert Phiri said in an interview last evening that the marches will be held in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba cities.
He said the PAC executive board meeting held in Blantyre yesterday settled for the date.
Said Phiri: “PAC secretariat has now been empowered to proceed organising the peaceful nationwide march after the trustees and executives of mother bodies adopted the date.
“So, unless something crops up, preparations for the national protests will start tomorrow [today].”
Besides, he said the board examined government’s response in the wake of its petition to President Peter Mutharika and Speaker of National Assembly Richard Msowoya.
In an apparent reaction to the PAC petition pushing for the Electoral Reforms Bills, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu, who is also chairperson of the Government Technical Team (GTT) that is engaged in dialogue with PAC, is on record as having said government has its own timeline for tabling the Electoral Reforms Bills.
Said the minister: “PAC needs to go back to its institution and understand what it is supposed to do… Government is not answerable to PAC, so we cannot be dictated by unreasonable demands made by PAC. We are accountable to people of this country.”
Phiri said the PAC board was of the view that the organisation should proceed with planning the peaceful national protests given that there were doubts in terms of whether the bills would be tabled or not.
On Tuesday, University of Malawi’s Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa said mobilisation of the masses for national protests was one of the options PAC could employ to ensure that Malawians’ voices are heard by government.
But he observed that Malawians were generally passive in terms of collectively demanding what is deemed to be good for the nation, which would be a challenge for PAC to achieve its intentions.
However, Phiri said people should be mindful that the march would be organised and led by the faith community; hence, they were hopeful that people would join in their thousands.
He said: “Malawians who will join the march will join voluntarily and we are convinced that people will support a good cause.”
Phiri said between now and the day of the protests, PAC would be engaging some interest groups who were part of the 5+1 All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference and the civil society on the issue.
The emergency meeting was called after government challenged the religious body that its petition presented last Thursday—and gave a deadline of today for action—will not change anything on how it is handling the matter.
December 13 will be two days before members of Parliament (MPs) wind up the first meeting of the 47th Session of Parliament.
Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, told The Nation yesterday that the opposition was following developments relating to the bills and would act after this week.
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 50+1 percent majority in presidential election and an amendment of Section 81 (3) of the Constitution for swearing-in of the President and Vice-President to be done after 30 days.