The Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament has summoned Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leaders to explain the rights body’s call for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.
The meeting, which has since been described by HRDC as crucial, is scheduled for Thursday morning at Parliament Building in Lilongwe.
HRDC’s call to have the MEC chairperson resign has led to nationwide demonstrations that have in some cases turned out to be destructive to both private and public property.
The demonstrations have also been supported by opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), UTM Party and Freedom Party (FP), among other stakeholders.
A communication from PAC addressed to HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, dated August 29 2019 titled Summons to Witnesses, indicates the parliamentary committee wants HRDC leadership to give evidence on why Ansah should step down.
“You are ordered to come and appear before the Public Appointments Committee … to give evidence on the call by your Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition for the resignation of the chairperson of Electoral Commission Justice Jane Ansah, SC,” reads the communication signed by the committee’s chairperson Collins Kajawa.
The letter further states that the committee has acted in accordance with Section 9 of the National Assembly (Powers and Priviledges) Act.
Kajawa did not pick up his mobile phone when Nation Online sought his comment on Monday while the committee’s vice-chairperson Rachel Mazombwe Zulu declined to comment on the matter.
She said: “I am not at liberty to respond to that. Maybe the committee chair. I cannot divulge information about what we are going to discuss with them [HRDC].”
However, HDRC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence confirmed being summoned and described the impending meeting as important for Parliament to understand fundamental issues that are frustrating Malawians.
He said: “HRDC is ready for the meeting. It is an essential meeting because it will give us an opportunity to raise issues to the committee on what Malawians want on the issue of MEC chairperson.
“We don’t know what evidence they want. We are yet to hear from the committee. But it will be important for the committee to appreciate the underlying issues that Malawians are raising and it is our expectation the committee will come up with a position that will be in the best interest of all Malawians.”
Parliament’s summoning of HRDC leaders comes at a time when the issue of demonstrations is in court.
Last week, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ordered Attorney General (AG) KalekeniKaphale and the coalition leaders to discuss, within 14 days, how to ensure future protests are conducted peacefully.
Talks between the two parties that started on Friday in Lilongwe, are scheduled to continue tomorrow.
The meeting had to be shifted three times from Lilongwe City Council (LCC) Civic Centre offices to Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) before settling for Crossroads Hotel due to security concerns.