By Evelyn Chibwe, Nyasa Times
The former governing United Democratic Front (UDF) has expressed doubts over President Bingu wa Mutharika’s proposed Presidential Committee on Dialogue, saying it would be counter-productive as it would have no legal mandate and therefore its resolutions hardly enforceable.
The President made the call as he opened a Commonwealth meeting for parliamentary speakers from 20 African states after the Civil Society groups made fresh appeals for genuine response to the July 20 petition, which called on the President to conclusively address the growing concerns of massive deterioration of the economy, rule of law and general governance.
The civil society organizations have threatened to stage fresh mass protests on August 17 if the President does not act.
But in a statement signed by the UDF secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala and its deputy publicity secretary Ken Msonda made available to Nyasa Times, the party says such a body shall require clearly set-out terms of reference and mechanisms of enforcing agreements.
“The UDF believes that the civil society has laid down a list of economic, social and political imperatives that President Mutharika should address in the short, medium and long term,” reads the statement in part.
The UDF says that it further believes that the suggestion by the President calling for an all-stakeholder dialogue is equivalent to calling for a Referendum “otherwise how do you identify parties to the dialogue session”?
Obviously, the statement reads, it is clear that President Mutharika, his government and his party (Democratic Progressive Party, DPP) are one-side of the current discourse and their views and position are already known on every aspect of the issues raised by the civil society.
The former governing party then “questions the issue of good faith by President Mutharika when he is busy castigating individuals that he was supposed to be dialoguing with and equally worrying is the fact that there are deliberate attempts by the President to raise the stakes by addressing meetings of his cadres where he is seeking their support”.
“The UDF believes this is wrong and that the President should have engaged in a more reconciliatory tone aimed at deescalating the political tension engulfing the country today. This is a time that the President should tell his advisors and the public media to tone down on propaganda and issues that raise emotions among Malawians rather that enflaming the situation,” the statement reads.
When he conducted whistle-stop tour in Mzuzu on Tuesday again departed from his earlier call for dialogue and castigated the civil society leaders and the state vice president Joyce Banda “for being responsible for the deaths” of the 19 people on July 20 when the demonstration erupted in violence.
The July 20 demonstrations were staged to bring attention to the high cost of living and the leadership style of Mutharika which Malawians say is autocratic, reminiscent of the dictatorial regime of Dr. Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s founding president, who clung to power for three