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Malawi VP Chilima rebuffs to receive CSOs MK4billion payout demos’ petition

The Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Monday followed the footsteps of President Peter Mutharika in rebuffing a request from civil society organisations (CSOs) during the planned April 27 demonstrations to personally receive a petition.

The CSOs confirmed receiving the letter from the Veep’s office, but are yet to make a decision on their next course of action.

In a letter to the CSOs dated April 21 2018, secretary to the Vice-President’s Office Clement Chinthu Phiri said the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) would designate someone to receive the petition.

Reads the letter in part: “In the letter you asked for the Rt. Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi, to receive a petition on issue pertaining to the state of governance in Malawi, you indicated that you intend to present the petition on Friday 27th April 2018.

“I would like to inform you that the Right Honourable Vice President has referred your request to the Office of the President and Cabinet to determine and designate a government official to receive the petition on behalf of the Malawi Government. You may, therefore, pursue the matter through the Chief Secretary to the Government.”

Mtambo confirmed receiving the response, but said they were yet to make a decision and to respond to the VP’s office.

“We have received the response, and we will officially respond to them on Tuesday [today],” he said.

The CSOs have called for protests against the MK4 billion budget allocation to legislators and other social issues such as state of governance and persistent electricity blackouts.

The CSOs are demanding cancellation of disbursement of the K4 billion and the resignation of Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Minister for Local Government and Rural Development) over their roles in the scam.

Led by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo, the CSOs wrote Chilima on April 18 2018 asking him to personally receive the petition because Mutharika, who had earlier rebuffed them, would be out of the country.

On April 4 2018, Mutharika, through State House Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said it was “wishful thinking” for the CSOs to expect the President to personally receive their petition because he was not party to the demonstrations.

Mutharika will still be in United Kingdom (UK) where he went to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) and pay a State visit to Scotland.

In an earlier interview with the Nation Newspaper after Mutharika snubbed them, Mtambo said they have previously delivered many petitions through other channels to Mutharika, but they have not seen any change; hence, the decision to deliver the petition direct to the President.

He insisted that there was nothing wrong with the CSOs and the citizens demanding that Mutharika should receive the petition.

Said Mtambo: “The Malawi Constitution is clear on this. It is now time that we should stop treating a President as God. He is our servant. Many times he has refused to face Parliament to respond to some questions and if he refuses to receive our petition, then we will really know what kind of a leader we have.

“Leaders should never run away from their people. If he [Mutharika] is a democrat, we will see him on the 27th. We have alerted the district councils as required by law and we expect that as government authorities, they will pass the information to the State House.”

Meanwhile, University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political analyst George Phiri has said it was not politically right for Chilima to receive the petition after Mutharika had already snubbed the CSOs.

“Chilima answers to Mutharika, and if the President said he would not receive the petition, it is not politically and morally right for Chilima to go on his own to receive the petition. It would have been different if Mutharika had delegated Chilima to receive it,” he said.

In Blantyre, CSOs will protest from the Upper Stadium via Chipembere Highway to the civic offices, while in Mzuzu, they expect to march from Katoto via Mzuzu Clock Tower via High Court Round-about to civic offices.

In Lilongwe, where they expected the Presidency to receive their petition, the CSOs plan to march from Chisomo Private Secondary School in Mchesi, via Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) Roundabout, through Lingadzi Roundabout via Parliament Building to Capital Hill.

In an earlier statement, the CSOs said their decision to stage protests follows inconsistencies, illegality and suspicions that characterised the K4 billion payout that raised governance and accountability questions.

The demonstrations, which the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and opposition political parties are supporting, will be held under the theme For How Long Shall Malawians Continue To Be Taken for Granted? Loss of Public Trust in the Current Administration: Time to Reclaim Our Destiny.

The CSOs argue that the K4 billion allocation is illegal and not in the best interest of Malawians; hence, the need to immediately cancel

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