Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a quasi-religious body formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government, is engaging presidential candidates to find a solution through dialogue to the electoral impasse.
In a statement jointly signed by PAC chairperson the Very Reverend Felix Chingota and publicity secretary Reverend Father Peter Mulomole, the body said since May 22 it has held face-to-face and telephone conversations with some presidential candidates and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to learn more on the challenges facing the result management system in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
Reads the statement in part: “PAC appreciates the insights gained from these key stakeholders and hopes that such constructive shuttle diplomacy will continue even beyond the electoral process.”
While the statement does not specifically mention the presidential hopefuls engaged, a source confided that the faith-based group has engaged incumbent President Peter Mutharika, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera and the country’s Vice-President and torchbearer for UTM Party Saulos Chilima.
Said the source: “There has been direct contact with President Peter Mutharika. The [PAC] mediators have also met Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and have held a telephone discussion with Dr. Saulos Chilima of UTM.”
In the statement, PAC said its mediation team continues to undertake constructive engagement with stakeholders to advocate for dialogue and mediation on contentious issues to secure consensus on an acceptable minimum national agenda in relation to the elections.
“In this regard, let us avoid to assume power through illegitimate means for this erodes legitimacy beyond the electoral period. In case of complaints, let us continue to use available complaints mechanisms and strike a balance between justice and peace.
“Peace is the best treasure Malawi has in its store, but this should not imply that institutions should be bent on deliberate disregard of principles of justice and the rule of law.
“It is PAC’s view that God will visit the conscience of those who guide decisions for the common good. If we follow unjust ways of dealing with electoral challenges, the victims from the process will be values of truth and justice and, therefore, peace will be destabilised.”
PAC urges the country to tread cautiously in the current electoral process amid questions on the presidential election results.
The mediation initiative follows the signing of a PAC-advocated Lilongwe Peace Declaration by six of the seven presidential candidates on May 4 this year. Mutharika did not sign as the ceremony clashed with his scheduled travel to the Northern Region.
In 2014, PAC also played a role in opening dialogue among contestants to resolve the election stalemate, again relating to the presidential contest.
The peace declaration serves as a goodwill document for dialogue, mediation and political settlement should things go wrong after voting.
The declaration, among others, seeks to engage the presidential
candidates in the election to commit to a peaceful democratic elections and a political process thereafter that serves the national good.
While commending MEC for transparency during the consultative meeting with PAC, the quasi-religious grouping urges MEC to exhaust all outstanding issues prior to announcement of presidential results.
PAC’s call for peaceful resolution to the electoral impasse comes against a background of pockets of violence in some parts of the Central Region, notably at Mponela in Dowa where suspected MCP supporters blocked the M1 Road with stones and burning tyres on Saturday before vandalising a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) office.
PAC said dialogue and mediation will define the destiny of the country; hence, urging Malawians to “disinvest our emotions as the country inches towards the announcement of presidential results”.
MEC is legally tied to announce the presidential election results following a court order MCP obtained on Saturday demanding a recount of votes in selected 10 districts. On Saturday, Chilima, who was trailing Mutharika and Chakwera in preliminary results, also demanded nullification of the presidential election results citing irregularities.