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Blantyre City Council u-turns, demonstrations on

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By Faith Kadzanja:

HIS OFFICE CHANGED TUNE—Chanza

Blantyre City Council (BCC) has made a U-turn and granted Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) the nod to hold demonstrations in the commercial city Thursday.

Earlier, BCC denied HRDC permission to hold the demonstrations in the city, arguing that all roads were booked by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which wants to hold victory celebrations.

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HRDC sought legal redress on the matter.

Earlier Tuesday, HRDC had warned BCC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alfred Chanza, that civil society organisations (CSOs) would hold demonstrations calling for his resignation if he continues to politicise protests.

Addressing journalists in Lilongwe Tuesday, HRDC Vice Chairperson, Gift Trapence, said Chanza had no right to stop peaceful demonstrations such as these CSOs have scheduled countrywide over the outcome of the May 21 presidential election results.

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Trapence said Chanza should rather resign and join DPP instead of allegedly using the council for political reasons.

Trapence also said they did not expect bloodshed during the demonstrations, saying the protests would be peaceful.

HRDC member Macdonald Sembereka said the CSOs intended to demonstrate against Chanza.

“We have noted that he is playing the hide-and-seek game. Often times when we inform him that we would like to demonstrate in the city, he creates some loopholes to stop us from doing so. We are actually agitated and angry with his behaviour because he cannot control people’s rights,” he said before BCC had reversed its decision.

Speaking before making the U-turn, BCC spokesperson, Anthony Kasunda, said the CSOs should not personalise the matter.

“It is not the CEO that made the decision; it is the institution that made the decision. The reason we have given is very valid. The first to seek permission was DPP and we received the letter from HRDC six days later and, that time, the decision was made by the council to grant permission to DPP,” he said.

The demonstrations in Lilongwe are scheduled to start from Community Ground via Mchesi to Capital Hill.

In Mzuzu, the protesters will start matching from Katoto Secondary School Ground to Civic offices.

In Zomba, the petition will be delivered to district assembly offices.

In Blantyre, the demonstrations are scheduled to start from Njamba Freedom Park to Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) national head office where the petition would be delivered.

Mec declared President Peter Mutharika the winner of the May 21 presidential election.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM, currently challenging the results in court, have endorsed the demonstrations.

The demonstrations are, among other things, meant to demand electoral justice, call for Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, to resign and demand the arrest of all presiding officers and clerks that were involved in alleged electoral fraud.

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