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Scores protest against president’s immunity

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By Mathews Kasanda, Feston Malekezo & Jarson Malowa:

Hundreds of people in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba took to the streets of the cities to demand the amendment of Section 92 of the Constitution that talks about a president’s immunity.

The provision stipulates that no person holding the office of president shall be charged with any criminal offence in any court except where he has been charged with an offence for which he has been indicted and convicted on impeachment.

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The demonstrations, championed by a group calling itself Alliance against Impunity, initially seemed peaceful.

However, in Lilongwe, there were sporadic incidences of violence, forcing the police to fire teargas canisters at the demonstrators.

Nevertheless, in all the three cities, they managed to deliver their letters of demand to the district councils.

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In the capital city, the demonstrators started thronging Lilongwe Community Ground as early as 8am and most shops in the city were closed despite heavy presence of police patrolling the streets.

One of the organisers, Wills Khama, said they decided to present the petition without marching first because of the alleged abduction of Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa, who was the main man behind the demonstrations.

Namiwa was said to have been abducted on Wednesday minutes after addressing a news conference confirming the holding of the demonstrations Thursday. He was reportedly found in Nathenje hours after the protests had ended.

Lilongwe District Commissioner, Lawford Palani, assured the protesters that he would present their petition to relevant authorities.

After the protesters had delivered their petition in the capital city, police fired teargas to disperse the people who had gathered at Lilongwe Community Ground along the M1 Road.

The people were not aware that the petition had already been delivered.

In Mzuzu, a group of protestors marched from Katoto Ground to the district council, taking about three hours to cover a distance of about a kilometre.

The marchers were fronted by Malawi Defence Force soldiers and another ring of over 100 police officers who provided security throughout the protests and after.

Among others, they faulted government for not doing enough on the rising cost of living and for failing to fulfil promises of a better Malawi which the Tonse Alliance made ahead of the June 23 presidential election.

Presenting the petition to M’mbelwa District Council Director of Administration, Tamara Nyirongo, lead organiser, Gomezgani Nkhoma, said the President Lazarus Chakwera-led administration is failing to honour what it pledged.

“The President promised us that he would trim his powers once elected into power but up to now, he has not done anything.

“President Chakwera promised us three meals a day but, as we are talking, people are going hungry every day. He promised to reduce passport fees, but today, people are failing to access passports. The list is endless,” Nkhoma said.

In Zomba, the protesters, through their team leader Joseph Joel Phakameya, demanded the “release” of Namiwa. This was before reports had come out that he had been found.

“We are not in touch with him. We don’t know where he is. We wish the President intervened in the matter,” Phakameya said.

He also said the protests were against presidential immunity, high cost of living and issues surrounding Tonse Alliance’s campaign promises.

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