Attorney General asks court to stop demos

The Attorney General (AG) has once again asked the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal in Blantyre to issue an order to stop anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).

The AG office, through lawyer Loness Michongwe, on Thursday filed an application before Supreme Court of Appeal judge Lovemore Chikopa, asking for the order to restrain HRDC from convening further demonstrations until the parties agree on clear guidelines to avoid violence during demonstrations.

Kaphale: Has filed an application

HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence says they have since responded to the issues the AG has raised which the court will hear this morning.

HRDC, after the expiry of a 14-day moratorium of no demonstrations issued by the same court on August 28 to enable negotiations on how the demonstrations can be carried without incidences of violence, resumed the demonstrations on Wednesday even after the talks with the AG failed to materialise.

HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, who earlier claimed they were targeted for attacks during during their scheduled meetings with officers from the AG’s office, argued at the beginning of the fresh demonstrations that they were free to demonstrate as the Supreme Court 14-day moratorium had expired.

But Michongwe asked the Supreme Court for the fresh order to stop further demonstrations, arguing HRDC, respondents in the matter, have foiled plans by the AG to hold meaningful negotiations.

She said the AG on August 30 this year called for a meeting at the Civic Offices in Lilongwe, but the HRDC representatives did not attend, citing security reasons.

Michongwe said the AG then suggested that the meeting be held at any Sunbird Hotel, but it was also declined by the respondents, citing same security reasons.

She told the court that the AG suggested Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe, to which they accepted, but after the AG had booked and his team was at the venue waiting for the respondents, they changed their minds citing the same security concerns and insisted that they meet at Crossroads Hotels or UNDP offices.

“The appellant [AG] succumbed to their request and went ahead to book Crossroads Hotels (Lilongwe) where the initial meeting was held,” she said.

Michongwe said the parties went on to inform their representatives separately before they came together to discuss as one group, but as AG Kalekeni Kaphale was discussing with his group, they were surprised to see the respondents storming out of the room, shouting and making all sorts of noise.

Upon inquiry, she said they were informed that one of the bodyguards of the HRDC representatives had seen a person trying to plant a grenade on their car.

The AG, the court learnt, managed to convince the respondents to proceed with the meeting and a draft consent was prepared.

She said there has never been an agreement on how the parties can prevent violence during demonstrations.

“Without the said agreement, and considering the trend of violence the demonstrations have taken, it is quite obvious that any further demonstrations will be marred with violence.

“It would be proper and in the interest of peace and security of innocent Malawians that the respondents be restrained from holding further demonstrations until there are clear guidelines on the conduct of demonstrations to avoid violence,” Michongwe pleaded.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling.

Meanwhile, 25 protesters in the Wednesday demonstrations were arrested after clashing with the police and Malawi Defence Force (MDF)soldiers. The protesters were arrested in Karonga, Rumphi and Mzuzu where the demonstrations have not been peaceful as arranged.

In Mzuzu MDF apprehended three protesters and surrendered them to police, in Karonga 20 were apprehended while in Rumphi the police arrested two.

HRDC leader (North) Happy Mhango confirmed that several protesters had been arrested mainly in Karonga where there were running battles between protesters and security agents.

He said HRDC through its legal team will assess the manner in which the people were arrested so that they are assisted.

Mhango has since urged police to regain people’s trust to avoid further clashes during protests.

Northern Region Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said police were still investigating what had transpired and was not in a position to comment on Thursday’s protests.

However, he said the police are monitoring the situation and providing security.

Though Kalaya could not reveal criminal acts that the police were investigating, The Nation has established that people looted shops in Karonga and also went to attack police houses but were chased by security agents.

In a related development, protesters in Mzuzu returned to the streets yesterday in an attempt to continue with demonstrations, but MDF later dispersed them. 

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