CSOs set mass protests for June 20

Civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have organised nationwide mass protests on June 20 to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and other commissioners to resign.

In a letter dated June 9 2019 addressed to chief executive officers (CEO) and district commissioners (DCs) for Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba, the coalition alleges that the current MEC has failed Malawians; hence, the need for the commissioners to resign.

CSOs want her head: Ansah

Reads the letter in part: “The demonstrations will take place on 20th June 2019 to demand resignation of MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and the whole MEC electoral commissioners for failure to manage the elections.”

HRDC’s demand comes two days after UTM Party president Saulos Chilima, who is the country’s immediate past vice-president, added his voice to calls for the immediate resignation of Ansah on Friday for allegedly failing the nation.

During a news conference in Lilongwe on Friday, Chilima, who finished third with slightly over one million votes, said his party has gathered evidence of misconduct by the head of the electoral body.

Kadadzera: We are ready

He said: “We have gathered evidence of widespread misconduct of the agents of the declared winner, MEC’s officers, security personnel and others. This is the evidence we shall be taking to court for the court’s intervention.

“Beyond the above-mentioned evidence, we have gathered evidence of misconduct on the part of the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission which shall be shared with the commission privately.”

In an interview yesterday, University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri backed the motive of the demonstrations, but expressed reservations on the timing.

He said: “It is obvious that Jane Ansah and the commission have failed Malawians and that is why the people want them out.

“But I have a problem with the timing, I think the demonstrations should have come earlier than 20th before the orientation and swearing-in of members of Parliament.”

Phiri said people’s anger is drawn from MEC’s failure to handle electoral complaints professionally by, among other things, failing to tell Malawians how those complaints were resolved.

Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate anytime provided the right procedures are followed but advised that the demonstrations should have waited for the court’s decision since the courts are already handling it.

Meanwhile, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM, two parties challenging the May 21 Tripartite Elections results in court, have, through their spokespersons the Reverend Maurice Munthali and Joseph Chidanti Malunga, respectively, supported the HRDC position.

Reacting to earlier demands by Chilima for Ansah to resign, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa told our sister newspaper Weekend Nation that the commission cannot comment on the calls for resignation of its staff in the absence of a formal letter calling for the same.

The HRDC letter has also been copied to the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Chief Secretary to the Government, the Inspector General of Police and officers in charge for Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu police stations.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the police are ready to provide security for the demonstrators once clearance has been given by relevant authorities for the planned demonstrations to proceed.

In Lilongwe, HRDC plans the demonstrations to start from Lilongwe Community Centre ground through Mchesi-Kamuzu Central Hospital-Parliament to Civic Offices while in Blantyre, the planned route is from Kamuzu Stadium upper ground through Masauko Chipembere Highway to the Blantyre district commissioner’s office.

In Mzuzu, the demonstration is scheduled to start from Katoto via Mzuzu Clock Tower to the Mzuzu City Council Civic Offices and in Zomba from the community ground through Mponda Primary School ground to Zomba District Council offices.

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