Malawi Justice Minister Samuel Tembenu has clarified why President Peter Mutharika declared a state of national disaster and not “ state of emergency” due to deadly floods, saying the law empowers the Head of State to declare disaster as a “prompt and immediate reaction” with less procedural formally as opposed to ‘state of emergency’ whose duration may also be limited.
Tembenu was clarifying after Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarous Chakwera, who is also opposition leader in parliament, called on President Mutharika to declare a state of emergency.
“A declaration of a state of national disaster paves the way to access funds from the National Disaster Preparedness and Relief Fund. It also unlocks voluntary donations and contributions from foreign governments and other international agencies,” explained Tembenu in a statement made available to Nyasa Times on Wednesday evening.
Tens of thousands of people in the southern region of Malawi have been cut off by the deadly floods, leaving them without food, clean water or access to health care, while many others have been displaced. Death toll has reached 200.
Justice Minister said the current catastrophe can be dealt within the legal framework of state of national disaster “without having recourse to the drastic measures brought about by the declaration of state of emergency.”
Tembenu said Chakwera and others calling for declaration of state of emergency may perhaps not be fully aware of the implications.
“A state of emergency results in the curtailment of people’s rights, restrictions on liberty and other rights as well as imposition of curfew,” Justice Minister informed.
He also pointed out that parliamentary involvement is also mandatory before such declaration is made and that state of emergency has a life span of 21 days unless extended by parliament after a two thirds majority voting for it.
“There is no need for declaration of state of emergency,” Justice Minister dismissed opposition chief point blank.
Meanwhile, President Peter Mutharika is continuing visiting floods survivors which took him Nsanje and Chikwawa on Wednesday.
After public criticism – mostly on social media- for dressing in suit and tie when he visited disaster stricken areas around Makawa in Mangochi and Ulongwe in Balaka last week, Mutharika was in shirt only, and looked relaxed in the lower shire visit.
Mutharika’s choice of wardrobe when he first visited flood victims in Mangochi drew a firestorm of critics and was described as “disrespectful.” The Malawi leader was however hailed after his “appropriate” dressing during lower shire tour.
He assured flood victims that government is doing everything possible to ease their pain and help their lives return to normal.
Mutharika has maintained his warning against aid abuse and said he wants relief aid to go to “intended beneficiaries.”
The Malawi leader has also warned corrupt government officials and aid workers not to divert the aid.
Malawi needs over K5 billion (about $10m) to rehabilitate and provide relief to the victims of floods and hailstorms that have wreaked havoc in the country.
According to Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa, the UN had moved in to provide experts and aircraft to help deal with the challenges that had overwhelmed the local authorities.
UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo said WFP, the UNFPA, the FAO and the UNDP – along with other UN agencies – were also helping the relief effort.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :