The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) at the Capital Hill could soon host thousands of victims of the one-party atrocities and injustices who are planning a vigil to demonstrate anger and displeasure over the government’s failure to settle their compensations.
Unandi Banda: Stressing a point at the news conference
The news conference
The victims – who are calling themselves Returnees and Detainees – told journalists in Lilongwe on Wednesday that they are fed up with government’s continued delay tactics over the issue.
The group’s publicity secretary, Lieutenant Griffin Kondowe, said they have been prompted to resort to a vigil following reports that the government is developing a policy on the compensation of all victims of the one party state.
Sangwani Kaswaya Mkandawire – an executive member of the Returnees and Detainees – suspected that this is a deliberate ploy by the government to further delay compensation.
“Why is the government insisting on a policy when the issue is straightforward? Was there a policy before Malawi Young Pioneers (MYPs) were paid in 2018?” asked Mkandawire as he read a statement issued for immediate release.
He said the government cannot talk about policy now because this was already addressed before the establishment of the National Compensation Act.
Mkandawire emphasized that the fact that Malawi had a tribunal means there was policy direction on how to handle the issue.
“We also know that policy development is a process that takes a long time. People have waited for 25 years for compensation. Developing a policy will mean waiting more years. We are saying that this talk of a policy is simply an attempt by the government to deny victims their right to compensation.
“We are aware that there is already a report, which is clearly stipulating what government needs to do to heal the wrongs of the One Party regime. The report titled ‘Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds’, produced by the Ombudsman in October 2017, contains measures which, if implemented, would substantially correct and heal a large part of the wrongs of the one-party regime,” he said.
Mkandawire further stated that the National Compensation Tribunal created by Section 137 of the 1994 Constitution to compensate people who had suffered or lost property during the one party rule had been abused by politicians by making payments to politically connected individuals.
He said most of them received only interim payments ranging from K10, 000 to K20, 000 awaiting full compensation.
“However, the full compensation has not been made up to now. Our pleas to the government to settle the outstanding claims have fallen on deaf ears,” said Mkandawire.
He also wondered why the government is proposing the establishment of a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission to facilitate national reconciliation and healing and construction of a monument and a community centre in Moto Village to honour the victims of the one party atrocities when it is failing to compensate the victims.
However, Mkandawire emphasized that the returnees and detainees are not against the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“We are also not against the idea of erecting monuments or museums to honour the victims. These things are important to facilitate national processes of acknowledging the atrocities of the past and encouraging reconciliation and healing. However, we are surprised as to why government is prioritizing these things when issues of compensation for the victims and returnees have not been addressed,” he said.
Mkandawire said erecting monuments is a good idea and setting up a truth and reconciliation commission is also a good idea but said government should compensate people first.
“ Erection of monuments is simply a symbolic act recognizing that atrocities were committed. However, it would be a mockery to the victims, to start erecting monuments before compensating them. Our message to the government is: start with compensating victims. Monuments can be erected later,” he said.
The returnees and detainees have since called upon the Tonse government to address their concerns with haste, warning that any delays will spark more anger among them.
“As victims, we are fed up with government’s continued delay tactics over the issue. We have waited for too long! 25 years is a long time. Some of our colleagues have died before getting their compensation. Many more will die before getting their compensation if we allow government to continue its delay tactics. Enough is enough!
“Therefore, we are giving government 1 month. If we do not get any tangible communication from the government within 1 month, we, victims, will have no choice but to camp at the Office of the President and Cabinet at Capital Hill. What we want is our compensation. We will do anything to force the government to give us our money,”
Governance activist John Unandi Banda, who is one of the returnees and detainees, said they cannot wait for their compensations any longer.=
Other members present at the media briefing included Alexander Msiska, who is the secretary, Coordinator of the committee. Also attending included Life Sanudi, Patrick Johnson, Arnold Dzekedzeke and Andrew Phiri from Mchinji, among others.