In a twist to the tale, the Supreme Court of Appeal Tuesday stopped demonstrations that were scheduled for today through Friday.
In the court order, organisers of the demonstrations Human Rights Defenders Coalition(HRDC) its chairperson Timothy Mtambo and his deputy Gift Trapence have been stopped from organising protests for a period of 14 days.
“During the said time, the parties hereto, shall hold negotiations to determine a manner in which the Respondents’ exercise of their rights in section 38 of the Constitution can be had without undue incidents of violence.
“The parties hereto by themselves their servants and agents are on the pain of being cited for contempt of court be and hereby restrained from making statements that are or have the potential to prejudice the due determination of these proceedings,” reads the court order.
HRDC’s Trapence said they will obey the order but said they would come up with a position later
On Monday Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Minister, Mark Botomani, through a statement released cautions that anyone proceeding to hold protests would be stopped by necessary force, arguing the demonstrations have not been peaceful.
“Government has decided not to grant permission for demonstrations planned by the HRDC [Human Rights Defenders Coalition] from Wednesday, August 28, 2019. As such, government would like to warn all citizens to ignore any notice of demonstrations and not take part in the same,” the statement reads.
“Any person who defies the warning not to proceed with the planned demonstrations and/ or not to participate in them will be stopped with necessary force by law enforcers.”
Botomani has backed the government’s stance, saying it does not intend to take away citizens’ constitutional right but rather protecting the nation from further damage.
Asked why the Central Government was stripping off the councils’ powers of getting notifications for demonstrations and assemblies, Botomani said: “The council does not operate in a vacuum. They report somewhere and they know where to take instructions from, so it is not like we are stripping them off of their authority.”
Malawi Congress Party, UTM and Malawi Law Society (MLS) condemned the government’s threat to use force to stop people from holding demonstrations. demonstration.
“At any rate, for avoidance of doubt, we repudiate the Ministers statement , for it has every mark of a police that is unconstitutional , abusive and laughable,” reads a statement released Tuesday and signed by MCP publicity secretary Maurice Munthali.
UTM also condemned the Malawi Police Service for threats to use “lethal force” on protesters.
“The police can only use lethal force in order to prevent harm to life or property,” reads the statement signed by UTM Publicity Secretary Joseph Chidanti-Malunga.
MLS through its secretary Martha Kaukonde who, Tuesday, maintained the body’s on protests as indicated in a statement released in May 2019.
“The right to ‘peaceful demonstration is therefore covered and available to all people with clear intention to ‘peacefully demonstrate, unarmed’. The intentions of other people who may not be peaceful, should not hinder those who want to peacefully demonstrate,” MLS statement says.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.