PAC urges JB to maintain Kapito, other commissioners

As President Joyce Banda ponders on who to appoint next as commissioners for the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) has prodded the president to renew the contracts of the commissioners.

The tenure of office for the commissioners expires on Thursday, May 24, 2012, and PAC has described their three-year term as “of good service to the country.”

PAC Publicity Secretary Reverend Maurice Munthali said despite sailing in turbulent waters under the former regime of late President Bingu wa Mutharika, the commissioners served the country with perseverance and it was only fair to maintain them.

Chaired by the daring rights defender John Kapito, the commissioners included Rev Dr Zacc Kawalala, Veronica Sembereka, Sophie Kalinde, Desmond Kaunda, Marshal Chilenga and Shenard  Mazengera.

Kapito: Did a commendable job as MHRC head

However, Mazengera quit his position in October 2011 after picking up a lucrative job with Oxfam, a charity organisation, and is based in the United Kingdom.

“We are appealing to our President Her Excellency Joyce Banda to maintain these commissioners,” said Rev Munthali.

“These commissioners have done exceptionally well despite working under hostile environment. As PAC we strongly feel they must be reappointed or the president should maintain a number of them because they have proved to be of good service to the country.”

He added: “The journey has not been easy particularly for the chairman [Kapito]. He was attacked from all corners but he never relented, that was commendable work.”

Kapito was first appointed chairman of the state rights’ body in 2006 and then got reappointed in 2009 when his relationship with late Mutharika and his cohorts started souring.

The courageous Kapito was accused of all sorts of things and called names by the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) machinery for publicly condemning government’s human rights record.

At some point then Presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba told the nation late Mutharika goofed in appointing Kapito to head the state-funded body because he was advancing presidential bid for 2014 polls instead of serving his master (government).

And few weeks before Mutharika’s death, government arrested Kapito for a trumped-up charge of illegal possession of foreign currency but his case was discontinued after investigations revealed that he had followed all the requirements to obtain the forex.

On Wednesday this week, Kapito bid an unofficial farewell to MHRC members of staff in Lilongwe when he probably made his last official speech as chairperson at the start of a week long training for the staff on international human rights law based on the thematic approach MHRC adopted in its 2011-2015 Strategic Plan.

In his speech, Kapito called upon the MHRC to rework on their approach to human rights issues considering President Joyce Banda’s promise to respect, protect and promote human rights in the country.

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