Thursday, September 8, 2011

CSOs, Govt.:Hearken Unto Davie Chingwalu's Voice

Davie Chingwalu, Southern Region Police Headquarters Public Relations Officer, is sad; sad that leaders of Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and government officials are commenting on the suspicious fire that gutted Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) offices in Chichiri, Blantyre.
IPI offices were gutted by fire on Friday, with preliminary reports indicating that unknown people thronged the offices Thursday night, and petrol-bombed them. They unknown people also took the on-duty guard hostage.
However, the guard later surrendered himself to his employers.
IPI Executive Director, Rafiq Hajat, was in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, on the fated day. He is one of the leaders that have formed a pressure group, the Forum for the Defense of Democracy, in response to what they call 'deteriorating democratic standards'.
The fire has caused an uproar in Malawi, with CSO leaders trading barbs with government officials over he real cause of the fire.
For instance, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Chairperson, Undule Mwakasungula, was quoted in the Sunday newspapers blaming the fire on recent threats by President Bingu wa Mutharika to 'smoke out' CSO and opposition leaders responsible for the bloody July 20 demonstrations.
The demos put Malawi on the world map for the wrong reasons following the death of, at least, 18 people. Now the number of July 20 demos victims has risen to 19 following the death of one more 'victim'.
But Mwakasungula's, and other CSO leaders, comments could, naturally, not go without a response from government, or Mutharika's spokesperson Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba.
That is how Ntaba came onto the scene, with accusations of his own against CSO leaders.
Ntaba blamed the fire on CSO leaders themselves, saying some of these leaders were 'burning their own houses' as a fundraising measure and bid to woo more project financiers.
Ntaba said there was financial mismanagement and embezzlement of funds at IPI, citing it as one of the possible reasons IPI could have burnt its own offices.
The sentiments have angered Hajat, who has since demanded an apology from the Presidential Spokesperson. The human rights activist has warned that, should Ntaba fail to apologise, he will take an undisclosed action.
Probably, this action could be a lawsuit.
But this option (of lawsuit) stands to be a litmus test for Malawi's 'previlege' rules.
Under the Laws of Malawi, sitting Presidents cannot be sued for sentiments or actions made in their official capacity.
But the law is unclear on whether Spokespersons, duly appointed by the President to speak on his behalf, are also covered by the immunity that applies to incumbent presidents.
There are two schools of thought to the role of Presidential spokespersons. One argues that they cannot be sued, since they speak for the 'immunised' president; while the other school of thought purpots that they can be sued since they (spokespersons) are not in the personage of the President.
That is to say, Ntaba (in this case) cannot be said to be representing the exactitude of Mutharika since Mutharika has some hair on his head while Ntaba's head is relatively balded.
Mutharika is also taller than Ntaba, while Ntaba maintains a straight posture when walking- as opposed to Mutharika, who bends his back abeat as he moves along.
But, on the other hand, Ntaba can truly represent Mutharika since they both are relatively more educated than the majority of Malawians: they are both doctors.
The list is endless.
But, before people exhaust examples and proffer accusations and counter-accusations, Police Spokesperson Chingwalu wants a stop to all this 'noise'.
Chingwalu, soft-spoken and logical in his arguments, says debate on the IPI fire is piling more pressure on Police officers investigating the matter and could pre-empt findings.
"It is not good to be commenting on these issues. We urge both Civil Society leaders and government officials to stop commenting on these issues and give us (Police) a chance. It is not good to comment on these issues," Chingwalu told Zachimalawi today.
Zachimalawi cannot agree more with him. Reason dictates that we leave all issues in the hands of police.
As Chingwalu says,"Police officers are well-trained to come to the root of issues like these. I am sure we will come to the root of this issue, and put all matters to rest."

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