Malawi President appoints new MHRC commissioners

Malawi President Mrs  Joyce Banda has appointed new commissioners of the state-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), three months after the previous commissioners left office.

The new commissioners are: Steven Mkoka, programme manager at the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE); Dalitso Kubalasa, Executive Director for MEJN; Rodgers Newa, Executive Director of CEYCA and Benedicto Kondowe, Executive Director of Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC).

Others are Mrs Sophie Kalinde, former diplomat and commissioner; Marshal Chilenga; private practice lawyer and former commissioner; Rev Dr Zaccheus Kawalala, overseer of Word Alive Ministries and former commissioner. The Law Commissioner Mrs Gertrude Hiwa and Ombudsman Justice Tujilane Chizumila are ex-officio members.

Kondowe: Appointed MHRC commissioner

The appointment comes after President Banda promised the outgoing commissioners in May 2012 that she would not take time to appoint a new team at the institution to ensure that human rights promotion and protection went on smoothly during her reign.

Meanwhile, the swearing-in ceremony for the new commissioners has been slated for the New State House in Lilongwe on Wednesday August 8 2012 at 2:00pm.

Officials at the MHRC have vehemently refused to speak on the matter.

MHRC Executive Secretary Grace Malera is said to have warned staff last week during an impromptu meeting against speaking on the matter, saying the conduct would tantamount to “indiscipline” as stipulated in the Staff Conditions of Service.

Apparently, Malera expected the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to do the announcement but so far there has been no announcement on  state media.

But new commissioners have since confirmed to media outlets of their appointments, saying the appointment was effective 5th July 2012.

“Yes, it’s true I have been appointed,” said Kondowe to a local radio.

Zodiak Radio reported today 7th August during its 11:00am news that the President Banda has appointed these new commissioners to serve for a term of three years.

Malawi Civil Society Discussion forum and journalists NAMISA forum are awash with the news, with debates on why the President has just appointed a single woman while others argue it was okay because the ex-officios are both women thereby balancing the gender gap.

Nyasa Times understands that the new commissioners will elect their chairperson soon at their first meeting schedule this week, as stipulated in guidelines for the appointment of chairperson of the MHRC.

The previous chairperson was John Kapito, an outspoken critic of former President Binmgu wa Mutharika, who was arrested on trumped charges because of his fierce criticism against the regime.

Mutharika’s regime was accused left, right and centre for abusing people’s rights and worsening economic and political governance.

It is yet to be known if the new MHRC will have a strong voice on human rights as Kapito ably led the team.

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