Demo victims claim K0.5bn from HRDC

Twenty-five people who had their property destroyed during the June 20 nationwide demonstrations have jointly claimed K545 802 450.00 million from Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).

The claimants, through their lawyer Chancy Gondwe, made the claim in a letter dated July 19 2019 addressed to the chairperson of HRDC.

Protesters in Mzuzu parade with a dog dressed in a DPP T-shirt yesterday

The demonstrations, like the ones conducted nationwide by the same HRDC on Friday, were meant to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah, accused of presiding over fraudulent May 21Tripartite Elections.

The claim follows a recent statement, made in Parliament by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Bright Msaka, that organisers of the demonstrations would be held liable for any damage.

Homeland Security minister Nicholas Dausi, outside Parliament, also issued a similar statement that HRDC would be held liable for the damages.

HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo  said the letter is addressed to the wrong people, adding that the victims should go to government and ask them about this, because the protection of property and citizens is the responsibility of the Malawi Police Service.

Mtambo: Letter is addressed to wrong people

Gondwe, in the letter, warns HRDC that the amount may change as some of his clients have engaged property valuers and assessors to work on loss of business.

“Kindly let us hear from you on how you intend to settle this matter within the next 14 days. Be further advised that if we do not receive your offer or proposal on how you intend to settle this claim, we shall proceed to commence legal action against you without any further recourse to you whatsoever,” reads the letter.

The lawyer told the HRDC that his clients informed him that HRDC organised nationwide demonstrations on June 20, 2019 and on July 4 and 5 2019.

“Our clients were the victims of these demonstrations and as such, they intend to take the matter to court to seek compensation for loss of their property.

“Our clients appreciate the right to demonstrate as provided for under Section 38 of the Constitution of Malawi. The section provides for the right to assemble and demonstrate with others peacefully and unarmed,” Gondwe writes.

The lawyer says to demonstrate is a fundamental right and the Police Act further demands that in exercising this right and freedom, it must be exercised in a strictly peaceful manner.

“We understand that as conveners and organisers of these demonstrations, you undertook to hold peaceful demonstrations.

“We have been informed by our clients that irrespective of this undertaking, you failed to abide by this undertaking by failing to control the demonstrators with the effect that some of the demonstrators inflicted personal injuries on some persons, loss, damage and destruction to property,” it reads.

Gondwe cites provisions of Section 106(1) of the Police Act which provides that: ‘If any riot damage occur, as a result of an assembly or demonstration, every organisation on behalf of or under the auspices of which the assembly or demonstration was held, the convener, and every person participating in the assembly or demonstration, as the case may be, shall be liable for that damage as a joint wrong-doer together.

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