HRDC demos lock down Blantyre

For almost two hours yesterday Blantyre was in lock down due to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)-led anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations.

Demonstrators invaded Chileka roundabout which stands at the heart of traffic distribution network into and out of the city.

From around 1.25pm, traffic could not get into the city nor leave as the road that leads to Chileka Airport was also blocked by the protesters.

Thawe: We are increasing pressure

Buses leaving the city had to return while trucks carrying goods into the city had to stop and pave way for the hundreds of protesters.

The demonstrations, however, were devoid of violence as Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers kept protesters on a short leash, with Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers providing cover.

Addressing the crowd at Chileka Roundabout, HRDC chairperson (South) Masauko Thawe said the demonstrations–which started on a low note at around 9 am–was designed to increase pressure Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah whom he said has taken their calls for granted.

He said: “Our approach is to increase pressure on Ansah and her bosses. We want her to leave MEC so that things start going well again at the electoral body. We are back on the street and this time, we will not stop. “

There was a notable absence of politicians from both the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who had previously formed part of the demonstrations, with UTM Party’s Louis Ngalande being the only recognisable face.

Demonstrations were conducted for the first time following a 14-day moratorium by the Supreme Court of Malawi which directed the HRDC and office of the Attorney General (AG) to discuss modalities on how peaceful demonstrations can be conducted.

In a recent interview AG Kalekeni Kaphale blamed HRDC for calling for demonstrations before the two sides reported back to Justice Lovemore Chikopa on the outcome of their discussions.

During a recent interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) President Peter Mutharika said he would not sack Ansah because there was a case in court to determine how the elections were conducted.

Ansah herself is on record as having said she would resign only if the presidential elections case, being heard by the Constitutional Court, proves that she was on the wrong side.

HRDC officials said there would be no petition to deliver to authorities.

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