By Faith Kamtambe:
Women Lawyers Association of Malawi (WLA) Monday presented a petition to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in Lilongwe, demanding the firing of Deputy Minister of Homeland Security, Charles Mchacha.
The lawyers accuse Mchacha of castigating women during ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rallies.
The petition, which the lawyers presented to Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara, says they expected Mchacha to be punished as opposed to being rewarded with a high office.
“We are shocked by the appointment of Mchacha who, in the recent past, used derogatory and undignified language against women at various political rallies. His behaviour towards women, who are participating in public life, is extremely disturbing.
“It has been our expectation that OPC would seriously condemn the insults on women and at the maximum, discipline rather than reward him [Mchacha] with the high office of Deputy Minister,” reads the petition which WLA President, Sarai Chisala Tempelhoff, has signed.
ActionAid Malawi Executive Director, Grace Malera, who is also a lawyer, was among the lawyers who delivered the petition.
The lawyers are also pressing for the inclusion of more women in President Peter Mutharika’s Cabinet.
WLA says Mutharika’s Cabinet appointments were made without due regard to the interests of women in Malawi or the laws that have been put in place to protect them.
Last week, Mutharika announced changes to his 20-member Cabinet, with Jean Kalilani [Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development], Grace Chiumia [Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development] and Cecilia Chazama [Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare] as the only female ministers.
But Mchacha Monday refused to comment on the lawyers’ demand, saying he made his position clear, accusing the media of fanning controversy.
During a DPP rally held in Blantyre recently, Mchacha, who is also the party’s regional governor for the Southern Region, branded opposition UTM women as “prostitutes”.
Muhara told the lawyers that the petition would be delivered to the right authority.
State House Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, said the president would attend to the petition once it reaches his officer.
He, however, accused the women lawyers of playing double standards for reacting to Mchacha’s sentiments while ignoring those allegedly made by other women in opposition.
“The [Women Lawyers] association should be objective in its approach to women issues if they are to be taken seriously. For some time, we have had some two women who have been insulting the First Lady [Gertrude Mutharika] and the President during political rallies. And we have not heard anything from the Women Lawyers[ Association] in terms of condemning such irresponsible behaviour. Is the First Lady not a woman? She is a mother and a fellow woman and she also deserves respect and protection. The foul-mouthed ladies have also been calling the President derogatory names and this association has been quiet. Are they saying such uncivilised behaviour from the women politicians is alright?” Kalilani said.
Last week, after being sworn-in as Deputy Minister, Mchacha said his remarks targeted UTM women who, he said, attack Mutharika.
Last week, Coalition for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition and activist Billy Mayaya also delivered a petition to United Nations Women offices in Lilongwe, calling for the removal of Mutharika as He-for-She champion.
United Nations Headquarters appointed Mutharika as Global He-for-She Impact champion following his alleged commitment to gender equality and women empowerment.