Southern Africa Human Defenders Network (SAHRDN) has expressed concern over what it calls “arbitrary arrests” of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) members Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka in Lilongwe on Sunday.
The two were arrested barely hours President Peter Mutharika warned HRDC leaders against plotting anarchy.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera has issued a statement Monday morning, stating that HRDC group is accused of contravening the Police Act by unlawfully mobilising people to shut state residences — the official home of the Head of State.
HRDC have been holding nationwide protests since the Malawi Electoral Commission announced the results of last May’s disputed elections in which Mutharika was declared winner with 35.8 percent of the vote.
The organisation in Lilongwe on Friday vowed to shut down three state residences in a bid to force Mutharika to assent to electoral bills that were recently passed in parliament.
Giving a deadline of March 25, the HRDC’s Timothy Mtambo said at least five million people would be mobilised to shut down all state residences
In a statement, SAHRDN called on authorities in Malawi to “guarantee safety and security” of human rights defenders.
Local governance expert Makhumbo Munthali also called for the release of the activists.
“All these are sheer tactics aimed at instilling fear in the public but it will backfire,” Munthali told Nyasa Times.
Speaking on Sunday at a political rally in Blantyre, President Mutharika warned HRDC members against protest action around state residences on May 25.
“Be warned, your time is up, the party is over, get up and smell the coffee,” Mutharika said, adding that the organisation leaders were not bigger than the government.
Police said they were still looking for the coalition’s chairperson Mtambo who is “on the run”.
Kadadzera said HRDC leaders will be brought before the court of law to eb dealt with “in accordance with the law.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :