Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has invited beleaguered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to a meeting this week as it continues its mediation talks to resolve post-election stalemate.
PAC mediation team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa of the Blantyre Archdiocese of the Catholic Church said in an interview the team also plans to meet Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party leaders Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima, respectively, between Tuesday and Thursday this week.
Speaking on Friday before he presided over St. Joseph’s and Holy Family colleges of nursing and midwifery joint graduation ceremony at Nguludi in Chiradzulu, the Archbishop said the quasi-religious body is expected to meet the three parties in Lilongwe from tomorrow.
Said Msusa: “We plan to meet UTM president Saulosi Chilima and Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera between Tuesday and Thursday. And we are also discussing with MEC officials that we should also meet their chairperson Jane Ansah the same week to achieve peace through dialogue to ensure that the country is stable.”
UTM Party director of publicity Joseph Chidanti Malunga confirmed in a telephone interview they received an invitation for Chilima, who is also the country’s immediate past vice-president who served from May 2014 to May 2019, to meet PAC for mediation.
He said: “I can confirm to you that we have received the invitation and we are looking at it right now to see which could be the possible dates bearing in mind that there are so many issues happening in the country. We want dates which are acceptable by both parties [PAC and Chilima]. But,otherwise, we have no problem meeting PAC.”
In a separate interview, MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali was elusive on whether Chakwera will meet PAC this week.
He said: “We have no problem meeting PAC because he [Chakwera] has always wanted this country to be united. But there are some issues that are non-negotiable, including the issue we have brought before the court disputing the May 21 presidential results. We cannot, outside the court, discuss with anybody else regarding the results because the negotiation is now in the hand of Judiciary.
“Secondly, Malawians have spoken clearly that they do not want Jane Ansah to continue chairing MEC and MCP cannot put that on the table because it is the issue to do with Malawians and their wish. So, we cannot go against what Malawians want and I hope PAC knows very well that some of these things are beyond Malawi Congress Party itself, they are national.”
Munthali, however, said Chakwera is always ready to discuss with anybody any issue that can bring peace in the country.
Efforts to speak to Ansah were futile as we could not reach her on her phone.
Asked if she will be available for the meeting this week, MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said they were yet to receive the invitation from PAC.
“Once we receive the invitation, it will be attended to promptly,” he said.
Ansah has dismissed calls for her to resign for allegedly mismanaging the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, is on record as having told Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) that she would only step down if the court hearing an elections petition case found her leadership to have failed to discharge duties.
Since May 27 this year when MEC declared President Peter Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 740 votes, representing 38.8 percent, the political temperature has risen, with nationwide demonstrations which in some cases have been marred by looting and violence.
Results MEC announced put Chakwera on second position with 1 781 740 votes, representing 35.41 percent and Chilima came third, ahead of four other aspirants, with 1 018 369 votes, representing 20.24 percent.
Chilima and Chakwera have since filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the presidential election results. They cite alleged flaws in the results management process as one key factor for their case.
On the other hand, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been in the forefront organising nationwide demonstrations to force Ansah to resign for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process.
Two weeks ago, PAC’s mediation team, which comprises members from Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (Qmam) and Malawi Council of Churches met Mutharika and HRDC leaders on the matter days after former president Bakili Muluzi met both parties.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation last week, Muluzi said he would continue with his mediation drive despite PAC pursuing the same cause.
He said: “Our goal to achieve peace through dialogue has not changed. We will continue with that initiative until we achieve peace which every Malawian desires.”
Coincidentally, Muluzi had also previously met HRDC and the President. He also said he is currently arranging meetings with Chakwera and Chilima.
In an earlier interview, associate professor of political leadership at Catholic University Nandini Patel said the country would achieve more if the sporadic dialogue initiatives were merged into a single structure.
PAC was formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government. In an interview with our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, after meeting Mutharika, PAC executive director Robert Phiri said the President committed himself to dialogue and requested the mediation team to reach out to HRDC, MCP and UTM leadership and revert to him