The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) facilitated mediation talks continue being shrouded in mystery and a political scientist has since expressed scepticism over the prospect of the dialogue bearing any fruit.
Yesterday, the quasi-religious grouping negotiation team engaged Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera in Lilongwe but both parties remained tight-lipped on their discussion’s outcome.
In an interview after their closed-door talks, Bishop Gilford Matonga, while describing the meeting as “constructive”, could not divulge the contents, saying his body would only do so upon completion of their dialogue cycle.
Matonga, who acted on behalf of PAC mediation team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, said they would only give feedback to Malawians after reverting to President Peter Mutharika.
PAC has already met Mutharika and the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) but is yet to meet UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah who is at the centre of the prevailing stand off that has engulfed the country since the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
“We have to complete the discussion cycle first. We have to talk to UTM leader Saulos Chilima as well because when we met the Head of State [Mutharika], there were some issues he raised against the MCP and UTM leadership which we need to convey to both of them.
“Then, depending on time, we will also engage Malawi Electoral Commission [MEC] chairperson Jane Ansah before reverting to the President,” explained Matonga.
He, however, said PAC was now in a tricky situation on the time frame of the upcoming talks due to the ongoing elections court case which also demands the presence of Chilima as a witness.
Today, Chilima is expected to undergo his sixth day of cross-examination in the Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe.
“But once the UTM leader gives us that time we may not even wait for Jane Ansah but proceed to revert to the Head of State with the responses from the two leaders,” said Matonga, who is representing Malawi Council of Churches in the mediation team.
During yesterday’s meeting, Matonga said Chakwera responded to Mutharika’s concerns which he raised during his talk with the team two weeks ago but also conveyed his dismay that previous dialogues were not in good faith as they lacked political will, resulting in failure to address them.
In an interview after meeting the mediation team, Chakwera who described the meeting as fruitful said he had “sent a word back to Mutharika” which will form part of the feedback PAC is expected to relay back to him.
He said: “I am always ready for contact and dialogue. As MCP and president that has always been our bedrock so these are matters of concern to me. My main concern is this country’s future and long-term peace that we all need to lay foundation for and this is the basis for our discussion.”
But political scientist Ernest Thindwa from University of Malawi’s Chancellor College observed the success of the dialogue would depend on the interest of the stakeholders.
He said at the moment the stakeholders’ interest was polarised making it difficult for them to find a common ground.
“Everybody is looking at the costs and benefits and it looks like the costs for agreeing are much more than the benefits. So the outcome of the mediation is really less likely to be promising,” said Thindwa.
PAC mediation team is meeting different stakeholders to find lasting solutions to the current political impasse. Since Ansah, a Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Judge, declared Mutharika winner of the presidential race on May 27, HRDC had been leading nationwide demonstrations to force Ansah to resign for allegedly mismanaging the polls.