Malawi: Hrdc Says Not Against Lockdown - 'Malawi Govt Should First Insulate the Poor'

(file photo).
19 April 2020

The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence has said they are not against measures to curb coronavirus, clarifying that they sought a court injunction because government did not take measures to cushion poor during lockdown.

Trapence: Government should prevent to the poorest and most vulnerable of society

Trapence speaking on Times Radio during the 'Sunday Debate' programme clarified his organisations' decision to challenge government's planned three-week lockdown on Friday, which saw the High Court ordering a seven-day suspension.

"We are not against lockdown or any measures meant to curb the spread of coronavirus. But what we want is government to make more consultation to prevent harm to the poorest and most vulnerable of society," said Trapence.

"We would want to see a more coordinate effort as a national response and not a partisan response," he added.

Trapence said the national response should include all stakeholders including the civils society organisations, religious leaders and other political parties coming together to pull in one direction.

Small-scale traders, often young people, had been staging protests countrywide against the planned lockdown, carrying placards declaring that it would be better to contract the virus than die of hunger because they are unable to work.

Most of those protesting called on the government to provide them with cash and food handouts if a lockdown went ahead.

The HRDC leader said they are simply calling on government to insulate the poor and average income earners from the lockdown

He said President Peter Mutharika should not be is using the coronavirus outbreak to "prolong his stay in power," and defer the presidential fresh elections.

Mutharika, who in July is facing a re-run of last year's annulled election, has declared a state of national disaster on coornavirus and announced the lockdown.

He has also banned public gatherings.

Trapence said the government should not use coronavirus status as a scapegoat to continue the president's rule.

Malawi's Information Minister Mark Botomani dismissed such comments as "the usual noise" from civil society groups.

"Our focus as a government is to put everything in place to protect the lives of our people," he said.

Health Minister Jappie Mhango said the number of coronavirus cases had risen to 17 from 16, saying three of the 17 coronavirus patients were recovering and could soon be declared cured.

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