A governance expert and commentators have called for deep soul-searching to bring back sanity in the country as some criminal elements are taking advantage of the demonstrations in the aftermath of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections to loot shops, offices and torching government premises and property.
At the centre of the protests being organised by civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) is the demand for resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, Jane Ansah, for presiding over a flawed electoral process.
In the demonstrations on Tuesday, while the protests in Blantyre and Mzuzu were generally peaceful, the Lilongwe event was marred by violence, including the burning of a police armoured vehicle, looting of shops and ransacking of First Capital Bank.
The unrest began after police had fired teargas to try to disperse the crowd, and people retaliated by setting fire to the police vehicle.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, social and governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said there is no justification of any kind on the looting and criminal activities that marred the demonstrations.
“These must be condemned in strongest terms, and the law enforcers must rise up to affect arrests on perpetrators,” said Munthali.
“It’s unfortunate to note that instead of establishing good collaboration with organisers of demonstrations in order to ensure peaceful demonstration, the Police and government have often been in force front blocking protesters from exercising their right.
“This has often led to anger by some demonstrators leading to destruction of property,” he said.
On the part of organisers of demonstrations, Munthali observed that they have not had adequate marshals to complement the Police in ensuring order during demonstrations.
“The absence of adequate marshals and the failure of Police to act due to loss of protesters trust have meant that the crowd has been left without control. At the end of the day, the Army who have been drawn in to support the Police have also been limited to provide the required security mindful of the fact that this is not their primary duty,” he said.
The governance commentator suggested that organisers, City Councils CEOs, Police and the Army should come to a round table on how they can make the next demos peaceful.
“On the part of the President, MEC chairperson and government it would be important that they deeply reflect on the concerns being raised by demonstrators. There is need for them to change the focus from stopping or blocking demonstrations to strengthening their responsiveness to the issues being raised by the people.
“In other words, instead of embarking on tactics and propaganda to block the demos they need to devote their energies in finding lasting solutions to the issues being raised by demonstrators,” he said.
Munthali said organisers of demonstrations should go beyond the rhetoric of simple appealing for peaceful demonstration and condemning violence acts to begin collaborating with law enforcers in sharing relevant information where available that can lead to arrest those perpetrators.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) earlier asked Ansah and HRDC to reflect on their respective positions. Ansah has been asked to deeply reflect if she felt her position was still tenable in the wake of growing demands for her resignation.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, is on record as having said she can only step aside if the nullification petition in the Constitutional Court will find her commission not to have ably discharged its duties.
To HRDC, the Law Society quizzed the grouping on whether it believed continuing to hold a series of demonstrations after previously presenting petitions was in order.
The leading Malawi daily newspaper, The Nation, in an editorial comment on Wednesday, stated that the points raised by MLS “made sense.”
Reads the comment: “How does Ansah, personally, feel when she sees the extent of the continued damage to business, infrastructure and the economy at large in the name of demands for her head?”
The paper appealed to the organisers of the demonstrations, Ansah and other stakeholders to “deeply reflect” and that there is need for honest and deep soul searching to bring back sanity.
Catholic University-based political scientist Nandin Patel has asked for electoral stakeholders to first wait for court ruling on the election case results before condemning Ansah.
But Patel said it remains a moral responsibility and personal decision for one to resign.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :