By Pilirani Kachinziri:
Civil society organisations (CSOs), under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), have threatened to hold demonstrations in March if the government fails to address issues they raised in September 2018.
This is according to a letter addressed to President Peter Mutharika dated January 9 2019 signed by HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo, his deputy Gift Trapence and all regional chairperson.
HRDC petitioned the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) last year, demanding that Mutharika should address 10 points that affected the lives of Malawians.
The CSOs followed up the later with another one on October 14 2018.
“We would like to bring to your Excellency’s attention that we are already on the ground mobilising Malawians in each and every district in readiness for a series of nation-wide demonstrations should you not respond to our petition. Actually, we have already established structures in all the districts across the country in readiness for mass action,” states the letter.
Among other things, the CSOs demanded to bring to book those involved in the theft of K4.2 million worth of fuel at Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi and address blackout challenges, expedite the prosecution of suspects in the police food rations deal, and bring to book those involved in the killing of one of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) directors Issa Njauju and The Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa.
The CSOs also asked Mutharika to end nepotism in government and all parastatals and stop the abuse of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority as the country is heading towards the May tripartite elections.
HRDC also said they have been raising concerns on the issue of killings of people with albinism.
The recent case has been the brutal killing of a person with albinism in Nkhata Bay District, Yasin Phiri.
The CSOs said they were surprised by lack of response to their correspondence from the Office of the President and Cabinet and why it has taken almost three months to respond and address issues contained in the petitions.
“We call upon Your Excellency to respond to and address the issues as raised in our petition at your earliest convenience within a space of 20 days. This must include a clear action plan on the way forward as an assurance that our demands are not being ignored,” states the letter.
Presidential Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, said, if what the CSOs are asking for is acknowledgement of their communication to the government, this was already done.
“The government already attended to the communication from these two NGOs. They were called to a dialogue to discuss the issues they raised. They acknowledged receipt of the invitation but decided to snub the dialogue last minute.
“So, what exactly are they asking for when they refused to meet the government team that was set up to discuss the matters they raised?” he questioned.
Kalilani accussed the CSOs of lacking seriousness.
“They decided to snub the invitation. The government team waited for them and they never showed up. The issue ended there. Now they say they are reminding government about their letter? Like seriously? Which letter? Which issues now? The same ones they abdicated from? I find their action frivolous,” he said.
According to Mzuzu University based socio-political commentator George Phiri, holding the demonstrations prior to elections is tricky.
“It looks like the issues are politically motivated. Some of the issues raised are also political in nature like the Chasowa and Njauju. Some quarters may think it is witchhunting for government,” he said.
Phiri questioned why the CSOs are bringing the issues towards the elections.
He, however, conceded that the issues needed to be addressed by the government and the CSOs are taking advantage because it has been quiet.