The Association of Returnees and Detainees has cancelled their planned vigil at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) at the Capital Hill to force the government to pay them compensations for the atrocities suffered during the one-party regime.
The cancellation of the vigil follows a meeting the Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy PMtambo and his Principal Secretary, Erica Maganga, held with the leadership of the association on January 20, 2021.
The association’s chairperson, Rodger Mkandawire, and his publicity secretary, Alexander Msiska, confirmed the development in separate telephone interviews on Friday.
Mkandawire and Msiska said during the meeting, Mtambo assured them that the ministry is looking into the issue and that a Bill seeking to provide legal and policy framework for payment of the compensations to the retainees and detainees will be introduced during the next sitting of Parliament scheduled for February 2021.
“But this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the struggle. The association will be closely monitoring the situation and advise its members accordingly. Should the government backtrack on its promise, we will surely proceed with our vigil,” said Msiska.
At a recent press briefing in Lilongwe, the association threatened a vigil at OPC to demonstrate anger and displeasure over the government’s failure to settle their compensations.
The victims told journalists in Lilongwe on Wednesday that they are fed up with government’s continued delay tactics over the issue.
They said they have been prompted to resort to a vigil following reports that the government is developing a policy on the compensation of all victims of the one party state.
Sangwani Kaswaya Mkandawire – an executive member of the Returnees and Detainees – suspected that this is a deliberate ploy by the government to further delay compensation.
“Why is the government insisting on a policy when the issue is straightforward? Was there a policy before Malawi Young Pioneers (MYPs) were paid in 2018?” asked Mkandawire as he read a statement issued for immediate release.
He said the government cannot talk about policy now because this was already addressed before the establishment of the National Compensation Act.
Mkandawire emphasized that the fact that Malawi had a tribunal means there was policy direction on how to handle the issue.
“We also know that policy development is a process that takes a long time. People have waited for 25 years for compensation. Developing a policy will mean waiting more years. We are saying that this talk of a policy is simply an attempt by the government to deny victims their right to compensation. We are aware that there is already a report, which is clearly stipulating what government needs to do to heal the wrongs of the One Party regime. The report titled ‘Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds’, produced by the Ombudsman in October 2017, contains measures which, if implemented, would substantially correct and heal a large part of the wrongs of the one-party regime,” he said.
Mkandawire further stated that the National Compensation Tribunal created by Section 137 of the 1994 Constitution to compensate people who had suffered or lost property during the one party rule had been abused by politicians by making payments to politically connected individuals.
He said most of them received only interim payments ranging from K10, 000 to K20, 000 awaiting full compensation.
“However, the full compensation has not been made up to now. Our pleas to the government to settle the outstanding claims have fallen on deaf ears,” said Mkandawire.
He also wondered why the government is proposing the establishment of a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission to facilitate national reconciliation and healing and construction of a monument and a community centre in Moto Village to honour the victims of the one party atrocities when it is failing to compensate the victims.
However, Mkandawire emphasized that the returnees and detainees are not against the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The returnees and detainees have since called upon the Tonse government to address their concerns with haste, warning that any delays will spark more anger among them.
“As victims, we are fed up with government’s continued delay tactics over the issue. We have waited for too long! 25 years is a long time. Some of our colleagues have died before getting their compensation. Many more will die before getting their compensation if we allow government to continue its delay tactics. Enough is enough! Therefore, we are giving government 1 month. If we do not get any tangible communication from the government within 1 month, we, victims, will have no choice but to camp at the Office of the President and Cabinet at Capital Hill. What we want is our compensation. We will do anything to force the government to give us our money,” he said.
John Unandi Banda, who is one of the returnees and detainees, said they cannot wait for their compensations any longer.
Other members present at the press briefing included Alexander Msiska, who is the secretary, Coordinator of the Committee Life Sanudi, Patrick Johnson, Arnold Dzekedzeke and Andrew Phiri from Mchinji, among others.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :