The Lilongwe District Council has stopped Human Rights Ambassadors (HRA) from holding demonstrations on Wednesday because police are overstretched to provide security to the marchers and third-party property along the route.
But co-chairperson of the organising committee, Kingsley Mpaso has said the council’s decision was politically-motivated. He said they will seek court redress on the matter.
In a letter dated September 22, Lilongwe district commissioner Lawford Palani cited the deployment of police officers to various fuel service stations as the reason law enforcers are constrained to have human resources to provide protection in the proposed demonstrations.
The letter also said police officers have also considered the voice note by Ben Longwe, one of the HRA members, in which he is said to have encouraged violence among protesters.
The letter reads in part: “In line with the above stated provisions, and pursuant to Section 101 (1) as read with Section 105 of the Police Act of 2010, you are being advised to postpone your proposed demonstrations on the national security point of view.”
However, Mpaso maintained that the demonstrations will proceed as planned as they are not convinced with the reasons outlined by the council.
“The police know very well about the right to demonstrate and it is their responsibility to protect us. This is politics at play. We have done this before; we have marshals and the police to protect people and property. If they feel overstretched, let them call the Malawi Defence Force to support them,” he said, adding that their demonstrations will be peaceful.
HRA plans to hold demonstrations in Lilongwe on Wednesday, to ask President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice- President Saulos Chilima to step down or call for a referendum for allegedly failing to govern the country.
They cited the high cost of living and shortage of essential commodities such as fuel, forex and medicine in the country’s hospitals as a sign that President Chakwera has failed. The protests are expected to start from Wakawaka via Old Town (Area 3), to Parliament building where the leaders will make a speech and then proceed to Capital Hill to deliver a petition.