Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has said it would investigate circumstances that led to the death of an under-five boy and assault of Human Rights Defenders Coalition Central Region Chairperson, Billy Mayaya, during anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations in Blantyre on Wednesday.
Police officers fired teargas canisters within Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital premises while chasing protesters and Mayaya was assaulted by suspected Democratic Progressive Party cadets with stones and metal bars.
MHRC Executive Secretary, David Nungu, said they were saddened by loss of lives in Blantyre and Karonga District—where a demonstrator—Justin Phiri died while in police custody.
“These are the kinds of deaths that could have been avoided. The use of teargas without restraint must be deeply regretted just as the attack on the human rights defender, Dr. Billy Mayaya. The commission would investigate and document the violations associated with the deaths as well as assaulting of Dr. Billy Mayaya,” he said.
Nungu said MHRC was concerned with reports that some of the protesters sought refuge at the hospital.
One of the organisers of the Blantyre protests, HRDC’s Macdonald Sembereka, commenting on the planned inquiry, said they were looking forward to a report on the same.
“In my view, the only place which they [protesters] could seek refuge was at the hospital.
The situation was tense; teargas was all over. No wonder, they sought refuge at the hospital but they never caused any havoc at the hospital,” he said.
National Police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, Sunday said they started investigations on the matter after the demonstrations.
Kadadzera said police officers worked under a hostile environment as the protesters chased the law enforcers.
“Despite that the council [of Blantyre City] had not given the demonstrators permission to demonstrate in the street, we still came to provide security amid resistance. There are many things that happened but we are still investigating the matter,” he said
Meanwhile, HRDC Vice Chairperson, Gift Trapence, has claimed that some people wanted to torch his house in Lilongwe Sunday evening.
“There was a vehicle that came from the opposite direction of my house. It pulled down the electricity poles and there were sparks. We were shocked that the driver did not stop. The security guards manning my house identified where the vehicle came from and the owner of the vehicle. We rushed to that house, got the person and handed him over to the police,’’ he said.
HRDC has been holding demonstrations to force Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson, Jane Ansah, to resign for allegedly mismanaging May 21 tripartite election results.
HRDC members have been receiving threats and their properties attacked.
HRDC is expected to hold fresh demonstrations Tuesday.