PAC meets APM On dialogue

Public Affairs Committee (PAC) mediation team is today set to meet President Peter Mutharika in Blantyre to discuss possible solutions to the post-May 21 Tripartite Elections stalemate.

Both presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani and PAC executive director Robert Phiri confirmed in separate interviews yesterday that the President has granted the quasi-religious grouping an audience at Sanjika Palace at 2pm today.

Said Phiri: “I can confirm what your sources have indicated that the President has opened the door to us. We might probably meet tomorrow [Friday].”

Ready to meet PAC: Mutharika

He said PAC has prioritised dialogue and mediation as an intervention.

“We have taken some steps. We will engage all the main players. We have met the president of UTM [Saulos Chilima] and Malawi Congress Party president [Lazarus Chakwera].

“We are ready to engage any stakeholder who is willing. We also plan to meet HRDC [Human Rights Defenders Coalition] soon after engaging other stakeholders,” he said.

Kalilani, on the other hand, also said the meeting is on, but that PAC, a body formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government, was yet to disclose the agenda.

In a written response, he said: “I can confirm that the President has granted PAC an audience opportunity tomorrow [Friday] at Sanjika Palace.

“The agenda of the meeting has not been disclosed to State House. PAC indicated that they have a team that would like to talk to the President and the President is looking forward to hearing from them.”

This afternoon’s meeting comes after PAC mediation team earlier failed to meet the President after being granted an audience. The meeting failed to materialise due to some logistical problems on the part of PAC, according to Kalilani.

In an interview two weeks ago, PAC mediation team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa of the Archdiocese of Blantyre in the Catholic Church indicated that after the first level of dialogue with Chilima and Chakwera, the saw the need to meet Mutharika.

While keeping what transpired from separate meetings with Chilima and Chakwera under wraps, Msusa said: “PAC secretariat has to work on scenarios on what will be the necessary interventions after the court has ruled either way in the electoral [petitions] case.”

The PAC mediation team comprises members from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM), Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Quadria Muslim Association of Malawi (Qmam) and Malawi Council of Churches (MCC).

The team embarked on a dialogue initiative in a bid to pacify the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition parties disputing the May 21 Tripartite Elections results, especially in the presidential race.

While PAC rolled out its mediation drive, Chilima and Chakwera filed a petition in the court seeking nullification of the presidential election results over alleged irregularities.

Since May 27 when Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah declared Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709 votes representing 38.57 percent followed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes representing 35.41 percent and Chilima, the country’s immediate past vice-president, finishing third and ahead of four other aspirants with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent, tension has engulfed the country and, in some cases resulting in protests marred by looting and violence.

HRDC has been in the forefront of organising nationwide demonstrations to force Ansah to resign for allegedly presiding over  a flawed electoral process.

In an interview yesterday, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo, whose coalition has planned more demonstrations against Ansah, confirmed the scheduled meeting with PAC on Saturday.

He said: “PAC is a credible institution, we have a lot of respect for PAC and we also respect dialogue. We will meet PAC. We believe in genuine dialogue. We have had preliminary discussions, there is a possibility that we meet on Saturday.”

Last week, former president Bakili Muluzi separately met the HRDC leadership and Mutharika in his quest to seek a political solution to the stalemate.

However, the meeting between Muluzi and HRDC ended in a stalemate as the civil society outfit disregarded Muluzi’s plea to cancel demonstrations until the dialogue is finalised.

In the run-up to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, PAC made presidential candidates sign the Lilongwe Peace Declaration. On May 4 this year, six of the seven presidential candidates signed while Mutharika did not as the ceremony clashed with his scheduled travel to the Northern Region.

In an earlier statement jointly signed by board chairperson the Very Reverend Felix Chingota and publicity secretary Reverend Father Peter Mulomole, the organisation said it has since May 22  held face-to-face and telephone conversations with some of the presidential candidates to learn more on the challenges facing the result management system.

In 2014, PAC also played a role in opening dialogue among contestants to resolve the election stalemate, again related to the presidential contest. n

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