Jose, Mtambo should spare us their squabbling

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Timothy Mtambo and Inspector General of Police (IG) Rodney Jose are set to continue their verbal tussle when protesters convene for the “One million march” on August 6.

From Jose’s press conference on Monday, it was clear from his tone that he was not willing to accommodate the interests of protesters who are demanding the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.

Predictably, the IG’s demand was shot down by the HRDC chief and UTM President Saulos Chilima for being a violation of the civilian rights to protest. Jose should have seen this coming.

One thing that Jose got right in that press conference is that the demonstrations demanding the resignation of Jane Ansah are more political than administrative in nature. It is obvious that these demonstrations have been infiltrated by political agents who are peddling their interests under the pretext of securing political accountability.

And honestly, Jose and Mtambo should have anticipated that it would turn out that way. They should have known that since the issue is arising from an electoral dispute, political interests would have come to the forefront sooner or rather. And why wouldn’t they?

The demonstrations have become a desperate political tussle for power between the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on one hand, and opposition parties UTM and MCP, on the other.

In the eyes of the three parties, Ansah’s resignation goes beyond securing political accountability. To the DPP, Ansah remaining in office until the courts prove she oversaw a fraudulent election secures the legitimacy for their government.

For UTM and MCP, the demonstrations against the embattled MEC chairperson’s resignation could validate their claim that the election was fraudulent even before the Court passes its verdict.

It is against this background that both sides are doing whatever they can to ensure that they get their preferred outcome. But at this point, it is quite obvious that the anti-Ansah demonstrations are political.

And there is a lot of speculation that either side has a pawn in this saga. Jose, the IG, is allegedly a ‘blue-eyed’ proxy for the DPP-led State machinery, while Mtambo, the HRDC chief is an ‘anarchist’ working for UTM and MCP to make the country ungovernable and undermine the rule of law.

Sadly, neither Jose or Mtambo have done anything to dispel these rumours. If anything, their actions are fuelling public perception that they are working at the behest of the three political parties in the desperate tussle for power.

First, Mtambo let opposition party leaders and their supporters to join the demonstrations. With that one misguided decision, regardless of his intentions he blurred the lines between political and national interests. Where is the national interest in MCP and UTM protesting an election they believe was stolen from them?

And then Jose escalated the situation when he let the ruthless DPP cadets’ assault and manhandle innocent protesters in full view of his merry band of policemen. It escapes reason how the same policemen and women are quick to use teargas at any sign of unrest within the protesters’ camp.

These two gentlemen, perceived to be opposite pieces acting on selfish political interests, should realise that their actions are not improving the situation. They are inflaming it by peddling interests that coincidentally favour the side they are believed to be aligned with.

But the IG and the HRDC chief should know that the jury is still out on them. There is still a way they can salvage their reputations and show the nation that they truly have national interests at heart.

If rogue agents have infiltrated the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations, then Jose and Mtambo should be natural allies to stop it. Who better to investigate the infiltration than the police, who are mandated to ensure security against domestic forces? And who better to help in identifying the rogue elements than Mtambo, the person who is organising them?

The activist’s reluctance, or is it unwillingness, to seize the initiative and assist the investigation could be at best interpreted as a failure to take initiative to solve a problem within his institution, or at worst, an implicit endorsement of the actions of the rogue elements that have infiltrated it.

They should really consider stopping their ridiculous infantile squabbling and show they are not ‘corrupt’ agents working to advance selfish political interests.

If Mtambo and Jose are really free from political interests, they should stop acting like petulant children throwing tantrums because they are not getting their way. They should sober up and work together to ensure that the “one million march” on August 6, is free from looting, violence and God forbid, the needless deaths of innocent protesters.

And what better way to secure the national interests, than stopping rogue elements and partisan interests from further dividing the country on an issue that is already in court? n

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