Mixed views on dialogue progress
Public Affairs Committee (Pac) has said it is not frustrated by the ongoing demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) across the country.
The quasi-religious body wants to quell the tension that has come about following May 21 tripartite elections whose results Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM are challenging in court.
Pac Executive Director, Robert Phiri, last week Tuesday said they were looking beyond the demonstrations and that the protests are not frustrating their efforts.
“We are meeting each and every party concerned in the political situation to establish their positions as well as their common understanding. So, we have been listening to the parties so the next stage would be to bring them together where they can discuss the issues which are affecting the society,” he said.
Phiri said dialogue entails listening, learning stakeholders’ positions and understanding views from key actors in the dispute.
“The results from the dialogue process may be used as a basis for mediation, which entails a process in which a neutral third-party helps in resolving a dispute between two or among other parties,” he said.
Pac engaged President Peter Mutharika on August 2 2019 who guided the leadership to re-engage UTM, MCP and HRDC leadership but the outcome of such talks remain under wraps.
Phiri said they want to secure an audience with Ansah to hear her views following recommendation from the other stakeholders.
“Once this is achieved, Pac mediators will go back to the Head of State to concretise some points discussed on August 2 2019 and share feedback from HRDC, UTM, MCP and the Mec Chairperson,” Phiri said.
HRDC has been organising protests to push for Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Jane Ansah’s resignation. However, Ansah insists she cannot quit.
Pac has been one of the leading groups spearheading dialogue among parties such as UTM, MCP, HRDC and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to defuse the political impasse.
But political commentator, George Phiri, from University of Livingstonia, said the dialogue was moving in a circle and fears the talks might take long than anticipated.
But MCP spokesperson, Maurice Munthali, said while the party’s doors were open for dialogue, there should be no ‘suspicious circumstances.’
“At one point, the credibility of Pac evaporated. Having said that, Pac has not been open to tell Malawians what they discussed with DPP or HRDC, for example. Those are some of the suspicious circumstances that I am talking about. This is a public matter and people need to know,” he said.
UTM spokesperson, Joseph Chidanti-Malunga, said they had no doubt about Pac but the issue at hand is bigger than the quasi-religious group.
“They have been calling us, parties, to meet them and you keep waiting for them that they will come back to you with feedback but they take forever or never. Dialogue is like you bring together two contesting parties for a roundtable and solve issues, so I think that is where they are missing the point… and Pac needs to be updating the nation on what they have done so far otherwise people will doubt them,” he said.
Meanwhile, HRDC’s Billy Mayaya said demonstrations were a constitutional right and they would not derail peace and dialogue.
“We applaud any efforts that contribute to peacebuilding in this country and whose outcome result in stability. Our expectation is that these efforts must be broad-based and include a wide range of stakeholders,” he said.
Former president Bakili Muluzi, the United Nations and the Attorney General have also held talks aimed at defusing the political tension.