The Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) has finally resolved to meet President Peter Mutharika today in Mzuzu.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Cecelia Chazama told Parliament on Friday that her ministry and the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) were as of on Friday morning finalising logistics to ferry 150 Apam members to Mzuzu where the President has been carrying out State duties.
Chazama said this when responding to queries from lawmakers following a ministerial statement she presented in the House on government’s grogress on interventions on abductions and killings of persons with albinism.
In an interview later, Chazama claimed that government came to the rescue of Apam members after they “were abandoned by CSOs in Lilongwe after the failed vigils.”
“They [Apam members] were exposed to harsh weather and were dumped there. That’s when [Apam president Overstone] Kondowe called me, saying the group was in distress. I went there and Kondowe himself was shivering. I told them that no matter the situation [government was going to help them].”
However, the minister did not say how much government will spend on transport, food and accommodation for the group. She could also not disclose how much government has spent on Apam members who were accommodated at the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) in Lilongwe for the last two days, following a vigil.
In a telephone interview on Friday, Kondowe said the two sides had discussions and agreed that the group should travel to Mzuzu on Friday for a meeting scheduled for today (Saturday).
According to Kondowe, over 150 people with albinism are ready to travel to Mzuzu.
The meeting comes barely two days after running battles ensued between police and Apam members who together with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) officials marched to Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Wednesday but law enforcers blocked them, 100 metres away from holding a vigil.
“What we want is for the President to translate the commitments he made into action. We are ready to travel to Mzuzu and meet the President whether during the night or day,” said Kondowe.
He further said the decision to travel to the North received support from both sides, adding the Mutharika’s official engagements will not be affected.
Kondowe also observed that the meeting has come at an opportune time as a 48-hours’ ultimatum given to Mutharika to act on their concerns will expire while the group will be in Mzuzu.
Meanwhile, HRDC leadership has expressed shock at Apam’s change of heart to meet Mutharika in Mzuzu, saying as stakeholders that rallied behind the vigils, they were not consulted.
In an interview on Friday HRDC representative Timothy Mtambo, who is also Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director, warned that the decision is costly.
“It was best if Apam stayed behind and waited for Mutharika’s return. It’s an open secret that Mutharika left a day before the vigils because he was running away from meeting the members.
“That’s not servant leadership, and now to hear that Kondowe has agreed with government officials to travel to Mzuzu, is shocking,” he said. n