In a statement on Wednesday, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Youth and Society (YAS) urged the Tonse administration to draw lessons from the 20 July, 2011 demonstrations which were catalyzed by dictatorial tendencies and economic hardships.
The statement signed by CHRR’s Michael Kaiyatsa and YAS Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka is on the commemoration of 20 July, 2011 demonstrations in which several people were killed.
CHRR and YAS observed that most of the issues that compelled citizens to take to the streets on July 20, 2011 are also happening today. One of the issues that triggered the July 20 demos was high-level corruption and abuse of power by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration under Bingu wa Mutharika.
Malawians were also angered by nepotistic tendencies by the executive, characterized by appointment of family members and friends into various government positions.
“To the dismay of many Malawians, corruption continues to this day and, if recent reports by Transparency International (TI) and other governance institutions are anything to by, corruption has worsened in the last few years, despite promises by the leadership to eradicate it.
“Nepotism has also continued even under the new administration, as evidenced by the recent appointments of President Lazarus Chakwera’s daughter and vice president Saulos Chilima’s mother-in-law as diplomats,” the two organizations said. They added that that another reason why people took to the streets on July 20, 2011, was to protest against the passing of bad laws.
At the time, the then DPP administration had abused its parliamentary majority to pass a number of retrogressive laws, including an amendment to the Police Act empowering the Police to search people’s houses without a warrant, and an amendment to Section 46 of the Penal Code allowing the Minister of Information to ban publications ‘deemed to be contrary to the public interest’.
According to YAS and CHRR, the Tonse administration is repeating the same mistake, as evidenced by the recent passing of the controversial Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill of 2021, which seeks to severely restrict worker’s right to strike.
The two organisations warned authorities in the Tonse administration that such blatant abuse of power and executive arrogance is a recipe for disaster.
They urged the Lazarus Chakwera administration to go back to the July 20 civil society petition and remind themselves of the concerns that triggered the anti-government demonstrations.
According to the two organisations, the government should: “Take immediate and effective measures to address people’s persistent concerns, including high-level corruption, nepotism and promulgation of bad laws;
“Take immediate steps to protect people’s rights to freedom of assembly, expression and association and remove all impediments to the exercise of these rights.
“Listen to the concerns of Malawians and withhold assent to the Labour Relations Act Amendment Bill.”
The two organizations also want government to compensate all remaining family members and relatives of people who were killed during the July 20 demonstrations; investigate all killings related to recent protests, including the killing of Justin Phiri who died on 24 September 2019 in police custody in Mzuzu, and arrest and prosecute his killers.
They also want authorities to prosecute all police officers implicated in rape of women girls at Nsundwe, M’bwatalika and surrounding locations and prosecute all those who killed police officer, Usuman Imedi, at Nsundwe.