By Jameson Chauluka, Audrey Kapalamula& Feston Malekezo:
Protesters led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Thursday sealed Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) offices in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu as they continue pressing for the resignation of Mec Chairperson Jane Ansah.
However, the sealing of the Mzuzu office was only symbolic as Malawi Defence Force and police officers stopped the protesters from the actual sealing and only allowed them to seal an outer gate.
After sealing the offices in Blantyre, HRDC vice chairperson for the Southern Region, Masauko Thawe said was impressed with the turnout of protesters saying it was proof that people do not approve of the current Mec to manage the forthcoming fresh presidential elections.
The demonstrations started from Kamuzu Upper Stadium down the Masauko Chipembere Highway to Clock Tower Roundabout.
From there, the protesters branched to the right to the Mec head offices, their final destination.
“People in this office including all the commissioners and their Chairperson [Ansah) have been proved to be incompetent. They cannot be trusted to manage the next presidential elections which the court has ordered. We want them out so that we have competent people to run such an important task,” he said.
The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers blocked the protesters few metres to the Mec driveway, only allowing the few of them and the media to the gate.
At the gate the protesters were welcomed by Khumbo Phiri, Mec’s Director of Finance who helplessly watched the gate being sealed.
“We thought there would be a petition and I was asked to receive it. Since there is no petition, there is nothing I can say,” Phiri said.
In Lilongwe, after sealing Mec’s offices, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said they will engage Parliament next week to immediately appoint a new commission to manage the fresh elections at the same time to resuscitate electoral reforms deliberations.
“We have seen that our Mec is incompetent and we want a new commission in place. For us these [current commissioners] are gone. As people, we have spoken. We do not even want to hear about them,” he said
He said MDF will be custodians of the keys as HRDC are not responsible for provision of security to government premises.
In Mzuzu, there were scuffles during the protests as protesters pelted stones on MDF personnel for stopping them from locking the actual gate while HRDC leaders were booed for accepting to seal only a gate other than the offices.
The soldiers shot in the air countless times ending the show in stampede and commotion as everybody escaped the chaotic scenes.
But one of the HRDC leaders, Moses Mkandawire, said they closed the small gate after observing that Mec is housed in a building where there are several institutions.
In Mangochi, the protests were interrupted as some people are said to have been threatening protesters.
Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafurliwa said the shutdown will not stop the commission from operating citing preparations for Liwawadzi Ward by-elections as among other assignments.
“Nothing is going to stop. This is just symbolic. Mec has got offices all over the country. We will still operate whether somebody has locked it or not. The mandate is given to Mec by the constitution of the country that we should deliver credible elections in this country,” he said.
HRDC has been leading Malawians in a series of protests aimed at forcing Ansah to step down from her position for “mismanaging” the May 21 Tripartite elections. Ansah, however, on Wednesday told Parliamentary Appointment Committee that she would not resign until the Supreme Court of Appeal upholds judgement by the Constitutional Court will nullified the presidential elections
UTM president Saulos chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president petitioned the court.—Additional reporting by Yohane Symon