The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it has postponed the nationwide demonstrations it planned to hold to force the Tonse Alliance government to release the audit into the plunder of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds by public officers and businesspeople.
The demonstrations were slated for April 29, 2021. However, following the arrest of 61 people suspected to have taken part in the looting of the funds, HRDCC says it does not see it necessary to go ahead with the protest.
In a statement issued on Friday, HRDC has commended President Lazarus Chakwera for demonstrating political will in exposing the full extent of the rot underlying some institutions within government.
However, the coalition has vowed that it will continue to monitor efforts to address, not only the plunder of Covid-19 funds, but also efforts to decisively deal with corrupt practices in the public sector.
“HRDC is still monitoring progress and, at any sign of lagging on the part of government, will reignite our calls for organised nationwide protests in the immediate to long term. In fact, HRDC and Malawians will not be spectators and watch as public funds are abused. We will make sure that every tambala is accounted and that it is be paid back,” reads part of the letter the coalition’s chairperson Gift Trapence has co-signed with his national coordinator Luke Tembo and all the regional chairperson.
Trapence and his fellow activists have further applauded Chakwera for taking decisive steps to address some of the key issues and concerns the activists raised during their press conference held on Friday 16 April, 2021, where they vowed to launch a ‘Pay Back Our Money Campaign’ and urged the President to expedite the release of the audit into the mismanagement of the Covid-19 funds.
They say they feel encouraged by the arrests of 61 culprits named in the Audit Report, but also hope that everyone who was implicated in the scam should have their day in courts to answer for their crimes.
“We reiterate our call that there are no sacred cows. We expect more arrests and hope that no one will be shielded from the long arm of the law,” they say.
Trapence and his fellow activists feel Chakwera’s emphasis that government will find ways to ensure that the money will be paid back resonates with their ‘Pay Back the Money’ demand.
They have also noted the President’s directive to interdict all public servants implicated in the plunder of the Covid-19 funds and his decision to fire the Minister of Labour, Ken Kandodo Banda, whose office paid for allowances for an external trip using Covid-19 funds.
“HRDC also recognises the President’s commitment to overhaul the Civil Service. In his speech, the President noted that his actions on the same awaits the Vice President’s recommended radical changes to the structure of the entire civil service, as well as the entire system of allowances, employment contracts, and procurement in the public sector to root out corruption after which he will take the next steps towards his goal of overhauling this broken and rotten system from top to bottom,” reads the letter.
However, the activists have urged all the government institutions to abide by the President’s call for punitive action to be meted out on officers found guilty of looting public resources.
Trapence et all stress that this can only be achieved with the collective action by the Director of Public Prosecution, the Malawi Police Service and the Judiciary.
The coalition has further urged the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Titus Mvalo, to engage the Judiciary to ensure speedy trial and conclusion of all cases.
It has also called for continued collaboration by of the Malawi Police Service, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) to expose those who plundered resources meant to mitigate against the Covid-19 scourge and to ensure that the money is recovered.
“However, from the President’s speech, we sadly note that there are some critical areas which were not addressed and for which we still demand answers. For instance, we still demand to know why the Auditor General’s office why the Malawi Defence Force and the Malawi Police Service’s audits were glaringly missing in the Audit Report despite the fact that these two institutions presented their expenditure reports during the cluster meetings at BICC. The President did not also elaborate how his administration will close the loopholes in the public service procurement and accounting system that have allowed this pilferage to thrive. These are crucial issues for which we demand answers,” emphasizes the statement.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :