There were scenes of violence in Lilongwe Tuesday as Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, handed himself to police following a warrant of arrest the law enforcers had obtained for him and two others.
Police had arrested and transferred to Blantyre HRDC Vice-Chairperson Gift Trapence and member MacDonald Sembereka on Sunday evening.
Tuesday, the law enforcers clashed with the protesters as they fired teargas to prevent them from invading the station where Mtambo was heading to.
Addressing the crowd that was escorting him, Mtambo said the arrest will not stop the planned ‘Seal all State residences’ demonstrations scheduled for March 25 2020.
“Whether they arrest us or not, Malawians will not wait and see things get out of hand. We are proceeding with our demonstrations until the President assents to the two newly passed laws on Malawi Electoral Commission and 50 percent-plus-one,” Mtambo said.
“I want to assure you that this is a democratic country and we shall not tolerate any form of dictatorship. We will see to it that whatever the [Constitutional] Court said regarding the 2019 presidential election [nullification] is adhered to,” Mtambo added.
Demonstrators chanted songs demanding the release of the two HRDC members while warning they will all go into police custody if Mtambo is arrested.
HRDC lawyer Khwima Mchizi said he is yet to see the charge sheet from Mtambo.
“We will wait; if the police will be kind enough to grant him bail, it will be for the better. So, we will wait and see what happens.
If the file is ready, we will go to court and apply for bail,” he said. The three HRDC leaders were charged with ‘inciting another to contravene the law contrary to section 124(1) after they announced that they will shut down State houses because Mutharika is delaying to fire Jane Ansah and Mec Commissioners and to assent to the electoral reforms bills.
Trapence and Sembereka have since been transferred back to the capital city following a Lilongwe High Court order.
The order further rules that Mtambo should not be transferred anywhere outside Lilongwe.
“If you disobey this order you may be found guilty of contempt of court and may be sent to prison or fined or assets seized,” part of the document which has the Acting Inspector General of Police, Duncan Mwapasa, as the first respondent, reads.
Speaking after a failed bail hearing Tuesday at Blantyre Magistrate’s Court, lawyer representing the two, Peter Minjale, said the bail application will be heard in Lilongwe.
“The order says they should immediately be sent back to Lilongwe, so the word immediately bars us from applying for bail in Blantyre so they will have to be heard in Lilongwe,” he said.