Officials from the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) say the Malawi police is yet to furnish the human rights activists a letter from the Inspector General of police Rodney Jose outlawing peaceful demonstrations aimed at forcing beleaguered Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for messing the May presidential elections.
Vice chairperson of HRDC Gift Trapence said they would respond to the letter once the police gives them.
“Our grouping is yet to be furnished with the letter and when we get it, we will respond accordingly,” said Trapence.
Jose’s letter demanding a stop to the protests has drawn a backlash from a cross section of the society who say protesting is a Constitutional right.
Law expert Garton Kamchedzera said the police have no powers to stop protests, using the police clauses cited by Jose.
“The Constitution overrides the police Act,” said Kamchedzera.
Another lawyer Yasin Maone said the only time the protests can be suspended is when the Constitution is suspended and that can only be when the state of emergency is declared.
Inspector General of police Rodney Jose has told anti-Jane Ansah protests to suspend the demonstrations, saying both the police have failed to protect lives and property of people when the protests turn violent.
In a letter dated July 26, 2019 to HRDC, Jose also says the rights activists have as well failed to hold peaceful demonstrations.
“In view of the above, the Malawi Police Service, in exercise of its powers under section 105(1) of the police Act, demands that HRDC should forthwith stop convening demonstrations until such a time when it would be possible to convene and hold demonstrations. You are also required to convey this demand to members of the HRDC at all levels,” says Jose in the letter.
The letter says the HRDC sanctioned protests have been convened as peaceful; however, in all cases, Jose says, they have turned to be violent and have resulted injury to persons, extensive damage to property and looting.
“As you are aware, police officers have been attacked during these demonstrations making it extremely difficult for them to provide security to persons and property,” says the letter in part.
The police chief says the situation has been deteriorating with each new demonstration that HRDC convenes.
“It is thus evident that your organization is no longer able to convene peaceful demonstrations. On our part, we are unable to provide adequate protection for the people participating in these demonstrations and those affected by the same due to, among others, the hostile attitude of demonstrators towards police officers and criminal elements that have hijacked the said demonstrations,” says Jose in the letter addressed to HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo.
The rights grouping and opposition parties warn that that unless Ansah is fired or resigns protests across the country will continue to paralyse normal business.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :