For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? — Jeremiah 8:21-22
After a series of court victories by the opposition camp, the Malawi High Court on Monday August 5, 2019, had dealt Malawian protesters of the May 21 Tripartite Elections a major blow. Demonstration organizers however, received a resounding reprieve in the judgement of man of the moment, Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda, who permitted the HRDC to hold the demos in Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu.
The case brought the Lilongwe chambers of the High Court by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chaired by Timothy Mtambo, sought the Court’s decision to overthrow the Police ban on demonstrations slated for August 5, 2019. It is of course Malawians Constitutional right to assemble for demonstrations of any kind.
There was no mistaking the smacking bitter irony in the delayed hearing date.
The Court meeting on Monday, however, gave the HRDC the right to proceed with the march and some Malawians literary ran to the demos. The marches attracted angry voters-turned-protesters to flood the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
Justice Nyirenda’s decision, is a welcomed reprieve because it is the constitutional right of Malawians with grievances, to assemble, and state their complaints. In fact, Malawians have done this since May 28, 2019 when Malawi Electoral Commission Chair, Dr Jane Ansah declared President Peter Mutharika as winner, despite over 147 complaints and other election irregularities.
Following the announcement and commencement of the demonstrations by the angry protesters, the Malawi Congress Party and the United Transformation Party later dragged to Court the MEC and the DPP government to get a determination of the election results. This too, is a constitutional provision.
Barely a week after Nyirenda’s decision, reports hit the information circuit that suspected villains had petrol bombed Mtambo’s house. This is attempted murder on the one hand, and outright intimidation on the other.
These acts of terror are contrary to the democracy Malawi purports itself to be; and int any democracy, there would be a denunciation from the head of state.
It is noted with concern that since the start of the Constitutional Court case, the MEC and the government have been at pains to stymie the case by among others, having various State actors perform actions, with intent to obstruct the smooth and swift flow of the Court case.
This week the Attorney General attempt to stymieing the pathway of the MCP and UTM case against the government, led him to drag the HRDC to court, accusing its demonstrators of causing damage to property and charged that it should shoulder 2 billion Malawi Kwacha to pay for damaged properties caused by demonstrators. He furthermore accused the HRDC of interfering with the process that is in Court.
Ironically, the Attorney General is as guilty and maybe more than the HRDC. The Attorney General, MEC, the Police Chief, and DPP have done more to interfere with the smooth and swift proceedings of the case before the panel of judges of the Constitutional Court. In court, the questioning of the plaintiffs, show signs of delaying tactics and hen picking by the government lawyers.
Among the government actions since the elections are the following such as MEC Chair holding an interview on Zodiak, widely publicized on its medial platforms; there have been violent acts (some fatal) against opposition members and properties; former President Bakili Muluzi staged a conciliatory meeting to get the HRDC to stop the demonstrations; the PAC met with President Mutharika, another conciliatory chitchat; the Police held two Press conferences attended by Police and Defense Force Chiefs; and the Minister of Civic Education issued a press release stating that “no City, District or Town Assembly or Council has granted permission to the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to conduct 6th August demonstrations…”
Another component of government interference was the Court and its previously unpalatable decision that had set August 19, 2029 as the date to hear the HRDC case. This was a travesty of justice, grave injustice of high magnitude. Malawians were relieved upon hearing Justice Nyirenda’s decision paving way for millions of Malawians to demonstrate.
It is seldom a good habit to question the esteemed women and men of the bench, however, justice delayed is justice denied. However, Malawians are growing weary of the government dilly-dallying on so serious a matter as election fraud; weary of government lawyers attempts to turn the serious Constitutional Court into a kangaroo court, especially in the manner of questions being posed to the witnesses and plaintiffs.
The travesty of all these acts by the DDP government is that ordinary Malawians want to get justice; but daily the government engages paid villains, thugs, and assassins that target their criminal actions against non-DPP members of the public. DPP cadets boasted of plans to go to HRDC president’s house to stage an anti-HRDC protests. On Thursday, his house is bombed. This is no coincidence, but a premeditated criminal act.
Malawi is at the crossroads where it has all the appearances of the DPP-led government set against the citizens of Malawi.
One wonders whose interests are the government serving. If demonstrators are muzzled, and their leaders intimidated with mob justice tactics, where is the joy of calling oneself the leader of a democracy? And who will protect Malawian citizens from politically motivated violent acts like the one Mtambo and others have faced in Malawi as a result of the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections?
When such acts take place, we request the Police to conduct thorough, professional, fair investigations, and bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible to deter further acts of these rogue, ne’er-do-well, and premeditated criminal activities.
When such acts take place, we request the military to assist where the Police shows its failure, so that innocent people do not needlessly lose their lives. Malawi is a democracy, not a dictatorship. We recall that under the sometime labeled “cruel dictatorship of Dr. Kamuzu Banda” era, when rioters took to the streets, he responded; he and his ministers reacted, swiftly, and accommodated the demonstrators and the military (check “Operation Bwenzani,” December 1993).
When such acts take place, we request the judiciary to adjudicate, decide, resolve the matter swiftly and fairly.
Most importantly, we request the President to speak in a presidential manner, to these situations, to all Malawians, and not just to his base of supporters. His silence on the terror acts by the DPP cadets, shows complicity, collusion, and connivance.
_Long live genuine democracy!