The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) mediation team has pledged to meet Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah as part of the ongoing dialogue with different stakeholders to resolve the political impasse facing the country.
PAC made the promise during a closed-door meeting with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) in Lilongwe on Saturday. The dialogue with HRDC followed another meeting with President Peter Mutharika on Friday at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
In an interview after the meeting, which lasted close to two hours, spokesperson for the PAC mediation team, Bishop Gilford Matonga said they will reach out to Ansah in an effort to engage every concerned stakeholder.
“As you may know, HRDC has raised the issue of [the resignation] of MEC chair. And we thought we can reach out to her and hear from her. It was raised during the meeting and we thought it is important that we engage her,” said Matonga.
He also said it was pleasing to note that HRDC has asked to meet Mutharika.
Asked if they will ask Ansah to step down as per HRDC demand, Bishop Matonga could not elaborate, stressing that the quasi-religious body will meet Ansah as one of the stakeholders in the current stand-off.
He, however, said as a negotiating team, they did not have a position on whether Ansah should resign.
HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence said they welcome PAC’s initiative on dialogue and they remain willing to meet any interested stakeholder in an open and honest manner.
Trapence said they were surprised to learn from PAC that the government side told them that HRDC were organising demonstrations to topple Mutharika, stressing that their protest is to force the MEC chair to resign.
“They said the other side [government side] feels that we are targeting the President. They feel that once Ansah resigns, we will target the President. This is not our intention. Our concern is Ansah and we will be in the streets until she respects the will of the people,” said Trapence.
The HRDC vice-chairperson, who said they do not have a problem meeting the President as per PAC’s wish, doubted government’s sincerity in the dialogue when its actions were speaking a different language.
“They want dialogue yet they are going to court to block demonstrations. They are bent on curtailing the right to demonstration by asking the citizens to pay K2 billion to enjoy their constitutional right. Our members continue to receive threats. It is this hypocrisy which makes us reluctant,” said Trapence.
On demonstrations, Matonga was at pains to clearly say what PAC wants, saying people have a right to demonstrate but at the same time he said the violence associated with the demonstrations was a cause for worry.
“It is a tricky question. We fully support demonstrations. It is the people’s right to do so. But look at the property damage; look at how many things are affected because of demonstrations. People cannot go on with marching. That is why we have come in with dialogue. Dialogue must be given a chance,” he said.
However, despite the meeting with PAC, Trapence said HRDC will go ahead with demonstrations scheduled for this Tuesday to force Ansah to resign.
The PAC mediation team was led by Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Blantyre while Trapence led the HRDC team on behalf of the chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, who is bereaved.
Mtambo’s uncle died in an accident after being hit by a police vehicle in Chitipa and HRDC, which suspects foulplay, has since asked for an investigation into the accident.