Leaders of Youth and Society (YAS), a civil society organisation (CSO) that advocates for youth empowerment and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have expressed their delight at being jointly named 2018’s “Person of the Year” by Nyasa Times.
Malawi flagship online news platform ‘person of the year’ recognizes “the person or group of people who most influenced the news and the country – for better or for worse – during the past year”. It is decided by the Nyasa Times editorial directorate.
Nyasa Times sought nomination from various reputable commentators and analysts to nominate and give reasons for the accolade and has collectively named the Charles Kajoloweka led YAS and Timothy Mtambo chaired HRDC as its “person of the year” for 2018.
Kajoloweka said YAS is “deeply humbled by this prestigious honour.”
He said: “We dedicate this award to all selfless Malawians who have taken a step to join the fight against corruption.”
YAS has been steadfast in pushing the social accountability wheels using public interest litigation particularly on the K145 million police ration gate scandal .
Kajoloweka said YAS share the special recognition to private practising lawyers Bright Theu and Wesley Mwafulirwa “for their courage to represent us in several legal engagements in 2018 .”
He said: “Their courage and patriotism must be celebrated by all patriotic Malawians. The police food ration scam which we took head-on did not only leave an indelible mark on the critical role of citizens in challenging impunity, but also confirned our long standing fears that [the country’s leadership] was a primary beneficiary of the current corruption carnage.”
YAS executive director said the organisation has grown its faith in institutions of democracy including the Judiciary in their bid to protect public interest.
“This we will continue to pursue. We also take this opportunity to call upon Malawians to stand up and challenge corruption and impunity at all levels . Its time to reclaim our country from thieves masquerading as leaders,” said Kajoloweka.
However, YAS was well supported by a vibrant Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) led by Timothy Mtambo and in which YAS is also an active member- which kept the DPP government on its toes throughout the year as climaxed in 27 April 2018 nationwide demonstrations.
In jointly recognising YAS and HRDC, Nyasa Times pointed out that the organisation has within a short space of time and under a very restricted atmosphere established itself as the fore most authority in human rights discourse so much so that it has been able to positively influence a number of social, policy, legal and structural issues in Malawi.
HRDC has proved to be the most uncompromised and upright civil society grouping.
Welcoming the recognition, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the accolade does not belong to HRDC as a movement of change but to Malawians who risked their live in 2018 searching for a better future for their great nation.
“I am very proud to be a leader of this great network. I salute my comrade brother Gift Trapence and all the regional Chairs for helping me to provide an excellent leadership to this powerful movement of change. I salute all our membership which is fast growing for remaining true to the ideals of Human Rights, Democracy, Development and the rule of law. Thanks so much comrades for standing up for these values in the face of stinking impunity and executive arrogance,” Mtambo said.
He said standing up for human rights in the face of impunity is not easy “but we did it together. When others sold their souls, we refused to join the bandwagon.”
Mtambo saod Malawians should expect more from HRDC in 2019.
“Congratulations to HRDC, our member YAS and all comrades and patriots for winning this ward from a credible media institution like Nyasa Times,” he added.
Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that HRDC and YAS deserve the joint award.
“The works of their hands speak for themselves. Its a well deserved award. Congrats to the,” he said.
“For every Malawian who had closely followed developments in the country wouldnt be surprised with the outcome. The Civil Society under the burner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition remained consistent and relevant throughout the year in as far as holding the DPP government on various corruption and governance related challenges.
“ Similarly, Youth and Society’s vigilance in taking strategic public interest litigation on the K145 million issue and Mulli saga will remain some of the key highlights of 2018. For the first time in the history of Malawi we saw the Civil Society groups such as YAS, CHRR, Cedep and Church and Society of Livingstonia Synod successfully utilising litigation in demanding accountability of duty bearers on corruption related issues. In short, 2018 belonged to the Civil Society, and as a country we should be so proud that we have some in our midst who have refused to sacrifice accountability on the altar of greed, impunity and executive arrogance,” Munthali commented.
He said it is also important to recognise the fact in 2018 the civil society largely operated in a hostile political context characterised by state’s machinery attempts to stiffle the civic space through intimidation, propaganda, threats or in some cases using DPP sponsored CSOs to fight these organisations who were demanding accountability over the President’s role in the K145 million Police gate.
“In fact, it was in 2018 when YAS executive director received death threats from some DPP cronies, and in the same year when CHRR offices were almost petrol bombed by some thugs believed to be connected to the ruling party.,” he pointed out.
The local governance expert noted that government had also ambushed Civil Society to bring a repressive NGO Amendment Bill aimed at further stiffling their space but fortunately the Courts granted some temporal relief as the Bill could not be tabled.
However, despite all these draconian attempts by the state to stop them from speaking out, the Civil Society under the leadership of HRDC remained steadfast throughout the year, appearing unfazed by these distractions and continued to demand accountability.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :