Malawi Govt Dismayed By HRDC Demo Plan - Attorney General Says 'Questionable Motives'

12 September 2019

Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale has said government have noted with dismay the move by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to set a date for a fresh round of demonstrations before the negotiations that were sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Appeal have been concluded.

HRDC has announced that it will hold nationwide demonstrations from Wednesday to Friday next week to continue their bid to push for Jane Ansah to resign as chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC).

According to HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, the demos will be conducted following elapse of 14 day court moratorium. One of the HRDC officials Reverend McDonald Sembereka said the protests will be peaceful because Police committed not to use tear gas or any excessive force on marchers.

But Attorney General Kaphale in an interview with Nyasa Times on Wednesday evening said HRDC announcement of fresh protests with questionable motives.

He said following the directive from the Supreme Court, the two sides met and agreed on a few areas on what needs to be done for demonstrations that HRDC conducts to be peaceful one as is the constitutional requirement.

"There were of course a few areas of disagreement. The Government had hoped that the parties would re-engage to sort out the differences before going back to court for its final guidance on the matter," Kaphale told Nyasa Times.

He added: "Regrettably, on the expiry of the 15 days, HRDC has called for a fresh round of demonstrations which is contrary to the spirit of the dialogue. Of course, this comes with very little surprise as right at the outset, HRDC tried to scupper the very first meeting through unauthenticated allegations of a grenade attack against them and notably, during the follow up talks, they dug their heels in on areas that are expressly provided for in the Police Act on issues conveners of demonstrations must address or undertake to ensure peace prior to holding the demonstration."

Kaphale said these are issues like a suitable number of marshals and vehicles to ferry the demonstrators at the start and finish points.

"These are matters provided for at all but over which the HRDC does not want to commit itself to providing.

"Of course the parties should have approached the courts on the expiry of the 14 day moratorium period, but were informed of the unavailability of the justice of appeal," said the AG.

He said government believes the move by HRDC is in bad faith and intends to approach the court for further directions.

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