The Minister of Civic Education and National Unity Timothy Mtambo on Wednesday met representatives of The Returnees and Ex-detainees Association of Malawi, a group of victims of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) one party regime. The group continues to push for compensation from government for their plight and have concerns over previous governments failure to honour the compensation promises.
According to the returnees the past regimes have failed to honour them with compensation over their victimization during the one-party rule. They acknowledged that there was a partial payment during Bakili Muluzi era but since then, they have been left to rot and their attempts to engage with the government ignored. They further complained that they had been forced to accept settlement places which were not in their favour because they wanted to settle where their families were. The group feel their issue had been largely been politicized overtime. They pleaded with the Minister for his support to push for their voice to be heard on the grievances.
According to a reports these returnees are said to have suffered serious human rights violations during the one party rule which included detention without good cause or trial of any one perceived to be a rebel or not towing along the philosophy of MCP, inhumane treatment in prisons, torture, unfair termination of employment, loss of property , loss of life and many were forced into exile.
The majority of them went to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique where they had spent years avoiding political persecution by Malawi’s old one party regime.
The Minister assured the returnees that the Tonse government will do everything possible to make sure their grievances are heard. He assured them of maximum engagement on any burning issues and that part of the duties of his ministry was to facilitate this national healing.
Mtambo further highlighted that the Tonse administration is planning to work on a bill which will be tabled in parliament for discussion before it comes into law so that It can assist in the development of a framework of assisting victims of political persecution.
Also Speaking at the meeting, the groups Chairperson, Sangwani Mkandawire, expressed dissatisfaction with how the previous government have frustrated them and their attempts to get compensation. He cited political influence as a big challenge in their cause. He however expressed optimism with the new Tonse government that their concerns will be addressed. Mkandawire disclosed that the only money paid was in the range of MK15, 000 and MK20, 000 as partial payment when National tribunal office was in existence but now is closed. An ombudsman report back in 2017 found a lot of maladministration and irregularities with the National Tribunal service that includes favouritism in the priority of payment to claimants , payments made to prominent political figures even before the tribunal was set up and insufficient funding by the government.
Further to their grievances, the group had also planned to hold demos which were expected to take place on 24th of January should the Tonse government fail to honour their demands. The Minister however, assured them that government is seriously working on their issues, an outcome that satisfied the group, as they opted to suspend the proposed demos and choose to go the dialogue route.