We will seal State Houses—HRDC
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has said it plans to seal the country’s State Houses on March 25.
But State House Press Secretary Mgeme Kalirani has said Presidential Palaces and State Lodges are protected and access to the premises is restricted.
Briefing reporters in Lilongwe Friday, HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the decision has been arrived at following President Peter Mutharika’s failure to assent to Electoral Reforms Bills as well as his failure to fire Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners.
Parliament last week passed electoral bills which paved way for the holding of fresh presidential elections where the
winner is expected to amass 50-percent-plus-one votes.
Public Appointments Committee of Parliament mid-February found all Mec commissioners incompetent to continue holding office and to oversee another election in the country.
Mtambo said Mutharika does not appear to appreciate the need for urgency in passing the bills and firing the commissioners.
“Malawians are angry because President Mutharika is holding their future. Malawians do not want Jane Ansah and her fellow commissioners to manage another election.
“Malawians want to see new commissioners elected to ensure credible fresh elections,” Mtambo said.
When asked how they will march to the State House being a protected area, Mtambo said recently DPP demonstrators marched to the State House and they see no reason they should be stopped from doing that.
“The State House is our house. Nobody can stop us. We demand action from the President,” Mtambo said.
Under the law, a President is expected to assent to bills approved by Parliament within 21 days.
But Kalirani said expressing intention to invade, trespass or attempting to evade a Palace is a serious criminal act.
“The security apparatus of this country responsible for the protection of the Palaces and State Lodges shall handle all those with such misguided intentions as expressed by HRDC accordingly,” Kalirani said.
HRDC has also demanded an explanation from State House on three Israelis who are visiting the country, reportedly on State House’s undisclosed business.
The timing of the three, Aviv Osher (passport number 39017885), Bar Lev Omer (passport number 32212418) and Tsairi Marom (passport number 39023709), has left Malawians speculating on their mission in Malawi, especially now when Malawi is preparing for fresh presidential elections.
Last week, Chancellor College law professor, Edge Kanyongolo, said under Section 73 (4) of the Constitution, Mutharika has no choice but to assent to the bills.
“At the end of the day, he is bound to assent [to the bills]. Any failure to assent [to the bills] as required under Section 73 [of the Constitution] would be a serious violation of the Constitution,” he said.
But in an event that Mutharika does not assent to the bills, Kanyongolo said Parliament could obtain a court order, declaring that the President had acted unconstitutionally or directing him to act according to the Constitution or prescribing the legal sanctions to be imposed on him as the court would, in its discretion, consider appropriate.
Section 73 of the Constitution states that where a bill is presented to the president for assent, he or she shall either assent or withhold assent and shall do so within 21 days from the date the bill is presented to him or her.
Sub-section 3 and 4 say if the bill is debated again and passed by a majority of the National Assembly legislators at any time between the dates of the expiry of the 21 days, the bill shall again be presented for assent by the President.
Dean of Law at Chancellor College, Sunduzwayo Madise, also urged Mutharika to quickly assent to the bills to ensure that what the court ordered is implemented.
“If he sends it back to Parliament, the President will send a very bad and strange message about our democracy. We are in a period which needs good will from everybody as we go towards the [presidential] election,” he said.
“The President must rise above being the president of his party [Democratic Progressive Party] or somebody else who was affected by the court ruling. He must assent to the bills to ensure that Malawi moves forward with peace and stability.”
UTM president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera went to the court challenging May 21 2019 presidential election saying it was marred by irregularities.
According to Mec, Mutharika got 1,940, 709 votes against Chakwera’s 1,781, 740 votes and Chilima’s 1,018, 369 votes.
The Constitutional Court on February 3 nullified May 21 2019 presidential election and ordered fresh election 150 days from the day of the verdict.
Meanwhile, Parliament decided that the fresh election should be held on May 19 2020 after passing the Presidential, Parliamentary Elections Act Amendment bills.
Among others, the bills, which are yet to be assented to by Mutharika, provide for a runoff within 30 days in case that no candidate gets 50-percent-plus-one of votes in the election.
This follows one of the consequential orders directed at the National Assembly which was for Parliament to enact enabling legislation to amend the Parliamentary and Presidential Elections Act in order to put into effect the interpretation of Section 80(2) of the Constitution which says the president shall be elected by a majority of electorate through direct universal and equal suffrage.