Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) has put its weight behind the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) planned five-day vigils testimated to cost the country K1 billion.
An analysis in our sister paper Weekend Nation on Saturday estimated that government could lose revenue in excess of K1 billion in the protests that are targeting the country’s airports and border posts.
The synod’s general secretary the Reverend Levi Nyondo said in his sermon at a synodical conference in Area 47 in Lilongwe yesterday the church will do all it can, including supporting the protests, to ensure that electoral justice prevails.
In an interview after the sermon, Nyondo stressed that the synod will work together with those who will participate in the demonstrations as one way of showing Malawians the light leading to electoral justice.
HRDC has been leading nationwide demonstrations to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah whom it accuses of presiding over a flawed May 21 presidential elections whose results were marred by use of correction fluid to alter figures on results sheets.
Nyondo said the church will not sit and watch people protest the electoral fraud, arguing doing so would mean promoting injustice.
He said: “When people have complaints, what we need is to allow justice to prevail. The church is there to direct on these matters. As a church, we have vowed to fight together with people who are mourning that the elections were rigged. We will make sure justice prevails.”
The nationwide demonstrations that took place two weeks ago were marred with violence and vandalism of property.
Nyondo, who said the church has been participating in previous demonstrations in the North, condemned the violence and looting of property, but claimed that would not have happened if Ansah had respected the will of Malawians and resigned.
HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence has since hailed the synod for endorsing the demonstrations, saying the church’s position shows the synod stands for the voice of people.
He said: “We commend the church for that. It is not siding with HRDC, but with the right of the people to demonstrate. These rights are enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.”
Meanwhile, University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political science lecturer Mustafa Hussein said in an interview the church is not doing anything wrong by participating in the protests.
He said: “There is no problem with endorsing demonstrations because these demonstrations have a purpose. There is nothing wrong because they are not endorsing violence, but the idea to exercise a constitutional right. If the church did not endorse the demonstrations, one would interpret that they are against people’s right.”
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali and his UTM Party counterpart Joseph Chidanthi Malunga said in separate interviews that they support the HRDC plan to hold demonstrations at airports and border posts.
Since May 27 this year when the MEC chair Ansah 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 demonstrations which in some cases have been marred by looting and violence.
Results MEC announced put MCP presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera on second position with 1 781 740 votes, representing 35.41 percent while his UTM Party counterpart Saulos Chilima came a distant third with 1 018 369 votes, representing 20.24 percent, ahead of four other aspirants.
Chilima and Chakwera have since filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the presidential election results. They cite alleged flaws in the results management process as a key factor for their case.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has dismissed calls for her to resign for allegedly mismanaging the presidential election, saying she would only step down if the court hearing an elections petition case found her leadership to have failed to discharge its duties.
Last week, HRDC demanded that Mutharika should address the nation on steps he is taking to solve the current political impasse or risk triggering a high level of demonstrations.
HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo warned that if the President did not assure the country of how he is moving to meet demands presented in the six demonstrations HRDC has staged in the past two months, his group would hold demonstrations in strategic places such as border posts and airports.
Mutharika has, to date, kept mum.
The demonstrations have been scheduled from August 26 to 30, to be followed by a “two million march” organised in the four cities of Mzuzu, Zomba, Lilongwe and Blantyre on September 5 this year. The Livingstonia Synod, largely domiciled in the Northern Region with a few churches in the Centre, has in the past openly criticised the DPP-led government, particularly for introducing the quota system for selecting students into public universities, which they claim puts students from the North at a disadvantage.