- Blantyre denies CSOs permission to march
In the thick of the post-election tension, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some civil society organisations (CSOs) stand on a collision course with a potential clash during their respective parades this Thursday.
While DPP has planned what its regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha dubbed Victory Parades, the CSOs under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) are this Thursday set to hold demonstrations to protest the results of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections and demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners for allegedly compromising the electoral process.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said in an interview yesterday police will provide security to all marchers “regardless of political affiliation” as long as they operate within the law.
But Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an inter-faith human rights and policy watchdog, yesterday accused the governing DPP of trying to sabotage the June 20 demonstrations organised by HRDC.
However, DPP says the country’s Constitution gives everyone, including the party, the right to demonstrate.
In a telephone interview yesterday, PAC spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole said it was not surprising that DPP has set out to undertake its Victory Parade on the same date HRDC is expected to hold nationwide demonstrations.
He said: “The DPP has done that all the time. They have been trying to hold parallel demonstrations on a day others are holding their own, but this is not a problem as long as all demonstrators are peaceful.”
Mulomole said the onus to ensure peace was on the police. He said demonstrations do not necessarily mean violence.
By yesterday, Blantyre City Council had granted DPP permission to carry out its parade in the city while Lilongwe City Council and Mzuzu City Council said they only had requests from HRDC.
Blantyre City Council public relations manager Anthony Kasunda said in a telephone interview the council granted permission to DPP for its parade because the party was the first to make the request.
He said: “We received DPP notification on June 4 2019 and HRDC notification came on June 10 2019. The city has granted permission to DPP.”
Lilongwe City Council chief executive officer John Chome said in a telephone interview yesterday that the city was meeting with HRDC officials to discuss modalities, including the security of those demonstrating.
On his part, Mzuzu City Council spokesperson MacDonald Gondwe said the city would contact demonstration organisers to consider changing the route because the proposed route was passing through Katoto Secondary School where Form Four students will be writing their Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) examinations.
In a separate interview yesterday, HRDC co-chairperson Gift Trapence said the coming in of DPP to carry out their victory parade on the same day the HRDC has set for demonstrations will not change their plans.
He said the demonstrations will be peaceful and organisers will ensure that there is no disturbance to business, including affecting students that are writing examinations.
On Blantyre demonstrations, he said HRDC would not back down.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said his party will carry out its parade as planned.
He said just like the HRDC, the party’s supporters have the right to demonstrate under the same Constitution.
Said Dausi: “By questioning DPP’s decision to demonstrate does that mean, by inference, that those in DPP do not have the right to demonstrate? Have DPP rights to demonstrate been curtailed?”
But Kadadzera said police were prepared to provide security to all.
He said: “We are ready to provide maximum security to those that are demonstrating and those that are not demonstrating. We are providing the security to everybody.”
However, Kadadzera asked the demonstrators to stay within the law and avoid breaking any law or committing any offence during the demonstrations.
He advised demonstrators to ensure that there is no disruption to those going to workplaces and business, students writing examinations, learners going to school, motorists and health facilities.
PAC and UTM Party have since endorsed the HRDC demonstrations.
In their letter notifying the city councils about the planned “peaceful nationwide demonstrations to demand greater transparency and accountability”, HRDC announced intention to hold nationwide demonstrations in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu.