Activists; Lilongwe DC Clash Over Demos Route

A disagreement has ensued between Lilongwe District Commission (DC)’s office and a group of human rights activists planning to hold a demonstration on October 28, as the group has vowed not to change the route of their protest.

This follows the DC’s letter giving the grouping permission to hold demonstrations but asked them to change their route and that the protestors deliver their petition to his office and not State House as per their plan.

A letter dated 21st October 2022 signed by Lilongwe DC, Lawford Palani, has given the protestors permission to proceed with their demonstrations subject to the conditions, including the change route. “Route: Starting from community centre ground passing through Mchesi, Kamuzu Central Hospital round about, to Amina round about and via Chilambula road to the DC’s office to deliver petition, “reads part of the letter.

Palani has also advised the demonstrators to have 200 marshals to support police security and identify any troublemakers among the protestors. ‘’The convener shall make sure demonstrators do not carry any weapon during the demonstrations and the demonstrations should not disturb other road users in any way,” said Palani.

But the development has not been welcomed by the organizers. One of them, Joshua Chisa Mbele, of Citizens Against Corruption and Impunity has told Zodiak that they are not bowing down and they will proceed with their plan.

‘’We are going back to the district commissioner to tell him that lets do things according to the law. The law allows the citizens of this country to demonstrate at any place; if it is a place of maximum security like parliament and state house the law allows people to stay at least 100 meters away from the premises.

“He cannot do things as he pleases. We went there because the law says we must first make application and seek permission from district commissioners’ office, we are doing things according to the law. He must also follow the law,” he challenged.

The social rights activist says their concerns have nothing to do with the DC’s office but the presidency, thus they would want to meet President Lazarus Chakwera himself.

Legal expert Justin Dzonzi says as much as the city authorities have the power to suggest an alternative route with valid reasons as they own the roads but they do not have the power to compel the protestors to deliver their petition to his office.  

‘’Any person who wishes to carry out a demonstration does not need to seek the permission of anyone else to exercise that right because it is a right. 

The challenge begins if the form of your demonstrations takes you out to the street. At this point you will require to seek permission to the owner of the city…and the city has the power to tell you that you cannot use that particular road for this reason. 

And they suggest available routes or give suggestions,” said Dzonzi. Further, Dzonzi said the city fathers cannot compel the demonstrators to bring their petition to his office as the law does not provide for that, saying the demonstrators are free to decide where they want to deliver their petition.

‘’The demonstrators have the right to ask; we want to deliver our petition at state house but statehouse is not also compelled to receive the petition and the demonstrators cannot force state house. All they can do is to express their desire to present the petition,” he added.  

The civil society organisations want to deliver a petition to the president, saying they have lost trust in the Tonse administration for failing to deliver its campaign promises and failure to deal with corruption. 

The CSOs describes President Chakwera as compromised. The demonstrations will take place in all major cities across the nation on 28 October 2022.

The CSOs include Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), Social Revolution Movement, Concerned Citizens and Timely Voice.

(By Leah Malekano-ZBS)

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