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No demonstrations today

By Faith Kadzanja:

Gift Trapence

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has said it will not hold demonstrations today as earlier scheduled, in the quest to push for Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Jane Ansah’s resignation.

Speaking at the end of vigils held from Thursday to Friday in Lilongwe, HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo, initially said the vigils would take place the whole week from today, if Ansah did not resign.

But HRDC Vice- Chairperson, Gift Trapence, Sunday said they would not hold the demonstrations today as earlier communicated as they wanted to have a postmortem of last week’s demonstrations.

“We are not ruling out another [round of] demonstration [s]. What we want is to have a postmortem and we will tell Malawians on Wednesday in terms of the next course of action,” he said.

“We are not barring Malawians from exercising their rights. If there are other groups who would want to demonstrate, they can do that but it should be within the law. We have not cancelled the demonstrations for any particular reason apart from us wanting to assess and plan.

“Remember what we said last time that if Jane Ansah does not resign, the next demonstrations would be in all the districts. We would want to have a demonstration that would include other districts and that is why we need to meditate in these three days.”

In a related development, HRDC released a statement yesterday condemning President Peter Mutharika’s speech, delivered at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday during an event marking Malawi’s 55th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

Mutharika slammed opposition political parties for allegedly inciting violence to topple his government, challenging that they could not succeed in doing so.

In reaction through a statement, Mtambo and Trapence described Mutharika’s remarks as full of distortions.

“The comments made by President Mutharika perhaps indicate that Dr Jane Ansah’s refusal to resign might be owing to the inability of her appointing authority, President Mutharika, to appreciate the seriousness of this matter to which millions of Malawians have lent themselves in mass action.

“On this basis, we will now be including President Mutharika, the Mec Chairperson’s appointing authority, in our protest actions going forward: either he removes the chairperson of Mec from her office through the powers we delegated to the President’s office, or she resigns on her own as a person who cares about Malawians, their businesses and the general welfare,” reads the joint statement.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera has said they were ready to enforce the law any time the demonstrations take place.

“We want to assure Malawians of their total safety and security when there are continued incidences of violence and looting in some parts of the country. The current situation is relatively calm and closely monitored by law enforcement agencies,” he said.

On Thursday and Friday, some protesters engaged in arson, especially in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Karonga.

Ansah told the media that she would not resign until the Constitutional Court sitting in Lilongwe determines the elections case. The first round of demonstration took place on June 20 2019.

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