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Govt splashes K2.9bn on Army, Police over demos

Following conclusion of Human Rights Defenders Coalition led peaceful protests in Lilongwe on Friday, capital hill decided to ‘handsomely’ reward all Malawi Defence Force soldiers and Malawi Police Service personnel with K80,000 each as an allowance, The Sunday Times can reveal.

According to information that The Sunday Times is privy to, government deposited the money on Friday on the fourth and last day of the Lilongwe demonstrations.

Since results of the May 21 Tripartite Elections were announced on May 27 by Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah, the country has witnessed massive protests that kicked off on June 20, which saw MPS seeking re-enforcements from MDF in providing security during the protests.

When contacted, Malawi Police Service Public relations Officer James Kadadzera confirmed that police management has approved to give each and every officer K 80,000 as an allowance.

“Police management has indeed approved K 80,000 allowance to each and every police officer in the country for working overtime,” he said.

According to Kadadzera, with the current situation in the country, police officers in all the districts have been working day and night, stressing the allowance is meant for their upkeep.

His Malawi Defence Force counterpart, Paul Chiphwanya, also confirmed that the K80,000 allowances in question have also been received by MDF soldiers for what he termed ‘working during odd hours’.

“It’s true Malawi Defence Force soldiers have received the money as their allowance for working during odd hours, and this is normal for MDF soldiers to receive such allowances,” Chiphwanya said.

When approached by our reporter, Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi refused to comment on the subject, saying he was not the government spokesperson while deputy Minister of Defence Chipiliro Mpinganjira did not pick his phone.

Approximately, there are a total of 12,000 police officers in MPS, and about 25,000 active soldiers in MDF, meaning close to K2,960,000,000 was spent on the demo allowances alone.

It is not clear as to whether the money was already budgeted for but Treasury spokesperson Davis Sado said the security agencies are funded according to their needs.

“The ORT funding which was made to the institutions being referred to was a normal monthly funding,” Sado said.

He added that Treasury funds Ministries, Departments and Agencies monthly, according to submitted cashflow to enable them achieve their planned programmes.

The demo payment issue has raised suspicions, as some soldiers and police officers are currently on peacekeeping mission abroad, which makes one to wonder as to why they too have made the paid list.

During the past four days, the country witnessed another wave of demonstrations where protesters have been pressing for Ansah’s resignation.

It was also this past week that the demonstrators asked the police not to be a part of security detail during demonstrations, opting for MDF soldiers to control them.

According to laws of the land, it is the police who are obliged to provide security cover during public demonstrations.

Governance and political analyst Henry Chigaipe said though it was irregular for the protesters to ask police to leave and not control them during the protests; it demonstrated how the public has lost confidence in the law enforcers.

He said even the law governing demonstrations require that demonstrators inform the police precisely because of the duty they shoulder in the maintenance of public order.

“I think that the protesters asked the police to leave as a show of their lack of confidence in the police and because of narratives that have been making rounds in public domain that often, it is the police that provoke violence during demonstrations in an attempt to give the right to demonstration a bad connotation. In this regard, I would understand this as a wake-up call for the police to do some soul searching of their conduct as this act may indicate dwindling levels of trust by some segments of the populace,” Chingayipe said.

According to Chingaipe, after the recent ruling by Supreme Court of Appeal on demonstrations, the protests are bound to continue happening in the country.

He has since urged the police to rise to the occasion and build their professional capacities in public order management in a democratic context.

Changaipe warned that haphazard firing of teargas or use of lethal force will always put the police in negative limelight, and could see them being regarded enemy of democracy and symbol of oppression.

Since June 20, HRDC has been holding a series of demonstrations demanding the resignation of Ansah and other Mec commissioners, saying they failed to manage the results of the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

Mec declared President Peter Mutharika winner of the elections with 1, 940,709 million votes, followed by Malawi Congress Party’s Lazarus Chakwera who had 1,781,740 votes and UTM’s Saulos Chilima who got 1,018,369 votes.

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