Forum for National Development (FND) has urged the 14 arrested National Registration Bureau (NRB) workers in Mzuzu to drag to court Malawi’s Minister of Home Affairs Grace Obama Chiumia for her role in their incarceration.
The Forum has also called upon the Malawi Government and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to exonerate itself from Chiumia’s action, condemn, discipline and take action on the Minister for her appaling actions which the Forum says have disgraced the Government and DPP and embarrassed many.
In a statement signed by three leaders of the FND National Coordinator Fryson Chonzi, Chairperson Bright Kampaundi and Board Member Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, the Forum also urged the Minister to stop using the name Obama that is revered by many and is a symbol of democratic Excellency and free speech worldwide.
Reads part of the statement: “FND would like to call upon the 14 youths and their parents to take legal actions on the Minister, the Police and the Government for this wrongful arrest. There is a need to set a precedence and ensure that no any other Minister will act above the law and that the Police would become professional and don’t just take malicious orders.
“It is time as a country we need to stop this impunity. As a Forum we commit our support to the 14 youth if needed to help with the legal process.”
The three say as a Minister, Chiumia should not have stooped so low to eavesdrop in a lawful assembly of young people who just wanted to discuss issues affecting their livelihoods.
“She went ahead and abused her powers to order the arrest of the innocent young people. FND is appalled with the whole fiasco and fears that such abuse of power, if not checked, may escalate. How can the whole cabinet Minister forget that we are in multiparty democracy where freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech are enshrined in the republican constitution; therefore any Malawian has a right to assemble and discuss issues affecting him or her,” says the Forum.
The FND observes that time and again the nation has heard of how the young people employed by the NRB have been subjected to bad labour practices and not being paid on time and no one should be blame them for standing up for what is theirs.
“The Government and DPP must exonerate itself and condemn the Minister. Her actions put a dent on President Arthur Peter Mutharika’s team. We believe the Government and DPP do not want Malawi and entire world to believe that the best they can offer is an overzealous Minister with no regard to ideals enshrined in the republican constitution,” adds the statement.
The Forum also calls upon the Malawi Congress of Trade Union (MCTU) and Law Society of Malawi to act and help these youth and ensure that the rights of workers are protected.
Adds the statement: “We are aware of labour issues that have marred the NRB; we therefore condemn in no uncertain terms the silence from MCTU. The union should wake up and stand for the workers especially in these difficult economic times.
“Furthermore, we commiserate with the 14 youth and their families for the trauma they are going through. We wonder whether Hon Chiumia is a mother because she would have been empathetic towards the parents of the 14 youth who had to endure the pain and misery of their children being arrested for demonstrating their rights as free people.”
The Malawi Police Service arrested the 14 Mzuzu based NRB workers on orders from the Minister following demonstrations over their pay and poor condition of service but were later released through the court. The 14 are among the registration officers and supervisors in the ongoing national identity registration exercise.
The Forum commends the Judiciary for releasing the 14 unconditionally and upholding the constitution observing that the Judiciary has time and again proved to be a source of protection for the vulnerable from overzealous and misguided politicians like Chiumia.