Members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)--including National Coordinator Luke Tembo, Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, Billy Mayaya and Happy-- were on Wednesday and Thursday spotted among the over 50 newly appointed diplomats attending an orientation workshop at the Bingu International Convention Centre in the capital Lilongwe; and, this is barely a month after Nyasa Times had published government's intent to annihilate the militant rights body.
Tembo has been assigned to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia while Mhango, regional chairperson for the northern region is set to go to Germany.
Sembereka is headed for Washington DC in the USA while Mayaya has been assigned to Brussels in Belgium.
Already, President Lazarus Chakwera's Tonse-led administration roped in Timothy Mtambo, the group's former chairperson, as full cabinet minister of Civic Education and National Unity in his very first cabinet appointments. Mtambo is still cabinet minister to-date.
But Gift Trapence, current HRDC national chairperson, said the agenda and mission of HRDC "remained unchanged" and that the organisation remains steadfast in its quest to hold government to account.
He said HRDC was a people-centric organisation whose membership was voluntarily derived from individuals and organisations that have the welfare of the people of Malawi at heart.
"HRDC is a voluntary organisation made up of individuals who hold divergent views and interests. As a law-abiding organisation, HRDC believes that the right to make a choice is alienable. People have individual choices in life and we, as HRDC, cannot stop members from making life choices. We can only respect those choices.
"Because we are a voluntary organisation, HRDC is a revolving door that allows members to exercise their right to leave when it is time to do so. And, in so doing, the door opens for other equally skilled members to pick up the mantle. HRDC is bigger than individuals and the organisation has clear transitional structures and processes, including transitional procedures," Trapence was quoted as saying by the Daily Times.
Lilongwe-based socio-political analyst, Wonderful Mkhutche, had said it was normal that such a development would arise sooner than later.
"There are indeed rumours that some HRDC members have been appointed to go to foreign embassies. HRDC being one of the organizations that made political turnovers after the May 2019 elections, which gave way to the present Tonse Alliance-led government, it is normal for people to see it as a reward for their actions.
"But we must understand that the HRDC leaders are like all other citizens who are qualified for the job. We must, therefore, dwell much on how they will execute their new rumoured roles, based on their experience and knowledge.
"However, we must also not keep a blind eye to the fact that this is a political reward. This is unlike what was promised during the campaign. But above this, our attention must be on the capabilities of those appointed," Mkhutche said.
HRDC has been instrumental in fighting corruption and various socio-political injustices in the country. It played a crucial role in demonstrations, led by then chairperson Timothy Mtambo whose results was the nullification of the May 21 tripartite election presidential poll and a subsequent June 23 2020 fresh presidential election in which Chakwera's Malawi Congress Party (MCP), vice president Saulos Chilima's UTM and nine other parties partnered to oust Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) from power.
Speaking on Wednesday when he opened the workshop, Foreign Affairs Minister Eisenhower Mkaka asked newly-appointed diplomats to improve Malawi's relations with countries they have been sent to.
"The objective of this orientation programme is to provide you with functional information to prepare you for your career as diplomats and representatives of the Malawi Government abroad," he said.
Areas covered included information on the posting process, conditions of service in the Malawi Foreign Service, protocol and etiquette issues, government policies related to diplomatic service procedures and priorities.