Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has written Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also South African President, over what they are calling deteriorating political and human rights, and security situation in Malawi.
HRDC leader Timothy Mtambo confirmed the action in a telephone interview, saying they seek AU’s indulgence in ensuring constitutionalism and that they are worried with the shrinking of civic spaces in Malawi.
In the four-page letter, HRDC is reporting President Peter Mutharika to the African body for alleged violation of people’s rights, defiance of the constitution and undermining the courts.
Citing Mutharika’s refusal to assent to the recently passed electoral reforms bills and to act on the recommendation by the parliamentary Public Appointments Committee (Pac) to fire commissioners of the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec), the rights body raises fear that the Executive is creating a basis for worsening disagreements and potential conflict in the country.
They have further reported the President for his recent decrees in which he ordered the police and Malawi Defense Force soldiers to use necessary force on government critics and protesters.
“President Mutharika has literally declared the decisions taken by the Judiciary and Parliament as unconstitutional… He may or may not assent to specific bills passed by Parliament, but he cannot raise himself above the constitutionally set functions of the two other branches of Malawi’s government,” reads part of the letter.
HRDC has also, in the letter signed by Mtambo, vice chairperson Gift Trapence and National Coordinator Luke Tembo, accused Mutharika of “systematic attacks and limiting the enjoyment of civic and political space through arbitrary detentions of rights activists”.
The rights body has asked the AU to urge Mutharika not to politicise and abuse state institutions, including like the police and MDF.
Ramaphosa has in an emailed response acknowledged receipt of HRDC’s letter.
But reacting to the move, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the presidency is not worried with HRDC’s decision to write the AU, saying it places the body in a better place to appreciate what he termed as destruction and imperialism caused by the local rights body.
“HRDC should not cheat itself thinking that the AU is an ignorant body that can easily believe lies from them. AU has its people monitoring what has been happening here; they investigate and they have first-hand information”, Kalilani said.
On the rejected bills, Kalilani said Mutharika acted within the law.
Mtambo and other HRDC members have in recent months been in bad books with the government following a wave of protests that they have been convening for almost a year, aimed at forcing Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.