17 August 2018

Malawi: Analysts Differ On CSOs Calls for Mutharika to Resign - State House Brands Impeachment Bid 'Wishful Thinking'

Malawi's renowned political commentators have shared mixed reactions over the recent announcement by the Civil Society groups under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition that they would mobilise citizens to peacefully demonstrate against President Peter Mutharika to demand his resignation.

The CSOs made the announcement in Lilongwe on Wednesday, August 15 2018, saying Mutharika and his government have shown arrogance by only responding to 10 percent of the 27 April demos petition demands.

Amongst the fresh demands made by the CSOs included: the prosecution of Pioneer Investment businessperson Zamir Karim and all police officers implicated in the Police gate Scam; resignation of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) boss Reyneck Matemba over ACB's alleged shielding of Mutharika and other corruption suspects; and an immediate reconvening of Parliament to impeach President Mutharika for his alleged gross violation of the Constitution and oath of office particularly in relation to the K145 million police food ration scam.

"We believe that this social contract has been breached wantonly and we call upon Malawians from all walks of life to join us in coordinated peaceful protests to show our displeasure over the issues raised in this communication. The demonstrations will be on 7 September, 2018 in all districts in Malawi," read part of the statement signed 22 organisations and individuals.

However, some analysts have, however, told the CSOs to re-strategise in their actions and calls, saying some of their demands are not practical.

Livingstonia University political analyst George Phiri said: "The problem with CSOs is that they just give the ultimatums, but they don't clearly understand how things work in government. You can't just wake up in a day and propose things which are not possible for the presidency.

"They need to strategise and see to it that what they are proposing can go through, instead of always proposing things which don't materialise," he added, advising that CSO leaders need to consult more strategists in their planning.

Another political analyst, Professor Nandin Patel, said even though the grievances that CSOs present are genuine, they need to review how they set their timelines.

For instance, she said the timeline to make the president resign is not practical saying they just need to wait until the general elections," she said:

"Some of the timelines are impractical. The best they should do is wait for elections and change the regime through the vote, otherwise there won't be anything that can happen. On dragging the President to court, I think it's a hurried thought. They should ask themselves first whether they have exhausted all the possible ways before coming to the conclusion of dragging the president to court. Have they consulted all the responsible bodies before doing that? They should consider that," she said.

However, a Mzuzu-based governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said that while the elections in 2019 provide another platform for CSOs and the citizens to hold the current government accountable through either voting it out or not, this should not replace the need for accountability in the build up to the elections.

"In my opinion, I don't see anything wrong in demanding for the President to step down or be impeached a few months to the elections. As long as such demands are grounded in concrete evidence whereby it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that the President has really breached the Constitution. Otherwise, you don't suspend accountability just because you are approaching the elections.

"Accountability shall always be there -elections or no elections. Nowhere in our Constitution there is a provision that a President is immune to impeachment a few months before the elections", argued Munthali.

Munthali further warned that suspending accountability of a government purely based on the fact that we are approaching the elections can be recipe for disaster, as" this may give licence to the government of the day to continue abusing its powers and the Constitution".

"If there is a time where there is need for more close accountability of the government, then certainly it is the period close to the election. This is the period when thieving and arrogant governments think they need to loot more of public taxes for campaign purposes as well as for self- economic security in case they lose elections. Suspending any radical or soft activism done in public interest just because the elections are around the corner is denying the very citizens' access to good governance as well as legitimising impunity , argued Munthali.

Presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani has since described the demand for Mutharika to resign or be impeached as wishful thinking.

Klailani maintained that there is no justification for the President to resign in connection with K145 million scam, saying he did not benfit directly.

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