President Peter Mutharika has cleared the mist that he has not banned demonostrations, saying he support the right to protests peacefully as enshrined in the Republican Constitition but his government is against violence and criminal behaviour.
Mutharika: We have not banned demonstrations
Speaking on BBC, President Mutharika pointed out that the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) led protests have taken a toll on the country’s social, economic and political life – with business premises left damaged, business people losing their businesses and leaving state buildings burning from petrol bombs and arsonists.
Asked on his order to the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Police to stop demonstrations “using all force necessary”, the President said he was only against violence that has occurred during the protests.
“We have not banned demonstration. My government is not against peaceful demonstrations. I am one of the framers of the Constitution. I am a constitutional lawyer myself, I believe in the rule of law, but the Constitution doesn’t allow violent demonstrations.
“Yes you have seen the destruction that is taking place, a number of bulding s burnt, government buildings burnt, people injured, over 500 people severely injured. The Constitution does not allow that… ” said Mutharika.
Mutharika, a former law professor at Washington State University, helped in drafting Malawi Constitution in 1994 at the onset of the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the country.
Three months after holding peaceful general elections on 21 May, Malawi has seen thousands of marchers take to the streets every week to protest against the country’s disputed presidential results.The well-attended protests at the end of August to shut down the country’s land and air borders for three days have led the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale to obtain a court order to suspend the gatherings on behalf of the government.
However, the suspension granted by the Supreme Court of Malawi, only gave the government a 14-day moratorium from the street protests so that Kaphale and the leaders of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), to hammer out a solution to have peaceful protests .
The HDRC and its followers have alleged that the May polls which announced Mutharika as the winner were allegedly rigged in his favour by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and its chairperson Jane Ansah. Due to this, the protestors want her and fellow commissioners to be removed from office.
Ansah, who declared the presidential results as free and fair, said she would only leave the MEC leadership if a court of law found her at fault in the running of the polls – a stand that has infuriated the HDRC and its supporters further, thereby fuelling the current demonstrations which have spread nationwide in both numbers and fury.
With Ansah apparently being backed by the president, who appointed her in the first place, the demonstrations have picked up steam as every week the protestors have been called to march in the country’s major cities to demand Ansah’s departure from MEC.