MHRC Courts Malawi New President
The Malawi Human Rights Commission held its first private session with the newly sworn in President of Malawi Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera last week. The meeting took place at the private residences of the President, where the MHRC highlighted current critical human rights issues urging President Chakwera’s Administration to swiftly act on them being outstanding from the previous administration.
The cases include compensation for victims of July 2011 demonstrations, the murder of Robert Chasowa; sexual violation of women and girls at Mbwatalika and Mpingu, ritual killings and graveyard robberies of persons with albinism and compensation for victims of a stadium stampede in 2018 at Bingu National Stadium.
Speaking on behalf of the Commissioners during the meeting, Patrick Semphere, the Commission’s Chairperson said that most of the cases were long overdue because there was lack of political will in the previous administration.
“The greatest challenge in this regard has been the lack of adherence and implementation of the Commission’s recommendations by various duty bearers. These include the Malawi Police Service, government ministries, departments and agencies. I can cite a number of cases which the Commission investigated but have not seen the light of day,” said Semphere.
Semphere also said that the Commission as a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) was granted an “A” status at the international level. He said the Commission had proved to be a fully independent and functional national body. He however, pointed out that the organization is up for review next year and it would require the continued independence, immunity of the commissioners and staff, independent and objective processes of Commissioners and sufficient funding from government.
Semphere raised concerns of funding difficulties in order to reach important targets of the organization and warned that insufficient funding and staff shortages could affect retention of the Commission’s A status.
In his response President Chakwera acknowledged the MHRC’s efforts and promised to address the issues that were raised, “With regard to Access to Information and Gender Equality Acts, I appreciate the setbacks that have been raised and it is a challenge to be resolved”.
President Chakwera acknowledged the financial burdens of the organization and promised to support the MHRC’s efforts to maintain its “A” status: “It is gratifying to see that the world sees you as an “A” student. It behooves us to ensure that the status is maintained. With regard to financing, the MHRC should be empowered to function suitably. It is not appropriate for an institution to be functioning at 50 percent. The issue needs to be looked into vis a vis terms and conditions of service,” said Chakwera.
MHRC said that it had high expectations from the new government regarding its performance, but that as duty bearers the MHRC remained committed partners to guide the government on human rights issues and its compliance to the Constitution of Malawi and human rights.
Attending the meeting were all MHRC 7th Cohort Commissioners: Rev Patrick Semphere, Dr. Bertha Sefu, Mrs. Stella Twea, Mr. Baldwin Chiyamwaka, Mr. Bonface Massah, Ms. Scader Louis, Dr. Sunduzwayo Madise, Ms. Rosemary Kanyuka who is the Law Commissioner, Ms. Martha Chizuma who is the Ombudsman. The President was in the company of the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Titus Mvalo.