The Office of the Ombudsman is pondering to take government to court to push for justice for the 24 000 people who suffered various atrocities during the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) one-party dictatorship between 1964 and 1994.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma hinted at the court action when she commented on the status of recommendations her office made for the Office of the Attorney General (AG) to negotiate a compensation amount for each victim of the single-party rule.
She said delays in resolving the issue were not healthy because the claimants “heavily” suffered during one-party State and that they were psychologically affected.
Said Chizuma: “It is quite unfortunate that people holding public positions seem not willing to help them. These people have gone [through]
a lot and that is why we are looking at the possibility that we can go to court with the matter although we do not have the right to do so.”
There are about 24 000 victims who lodged claims for compensation from government through the National Compensation Tribunal (NCT) whose 10-year constitutional mandate expired in 2004. The NCT compensated about 500, including some high- profile politicians.
During the interview, Chizuma said there was currently no concrete solution identified to ensure that the people rest are compensated.
Ex-detainees and Returnees Association chairperson Sangwani Mkandawire yesterday also expressed concern that the claimants have unsuccessfully attempted to engage the Attorney General (AG) for a discussion.
He said: “We have been working on the recommendation that we should engage government so that we should agree how much each should be compensated.
“We have tried to go to the AG’s office for several times but nobody attends to us. We wrote the new Attorney General two months ago but we have not heard anything from him.”
Mkandawire’s group has since threatened to hold vigils at Parliament when the House reconvenes for the Budget Meeting in September to push for their compensation.
He said the claimants are demanding compensation in the range of between K20 million and K30 million per person.
In a report titled Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds submitted to Parliament in 2017, the Ombudsman recommended to government that the AG should discuss with the aggrieved parties on the amount each person should get in compensation.
After noting non-compliance on the recommendations, the Ombudsman wrote the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament which summoned the then AG Charles Mhango last year for a hearing on the matter. However, Mhango did not turn up for the scheduled meeting.
Chizuma believes that if the Attorney General would avail himself to the committee progress would be made.
Current AG Kalekeni Kaphale is yet to comment on the matter. Efforts to get his position on the issue proved futile yesterday as he could not be reached on his phone.
In her report, the Ombudsman recommended that the Office of the AG should negotiate settlement with the claimants’ representatives in the presence of a mutually agreed upon mediator.
The Ombudsman gave the two parties a March 31 2018 deadline to resolve the issue.
In December 2018, a group of Malawian returnees, who fled the country during the one-party era, petitioned Parliament to compel the AG to meet them to hear their grievances.