Malawi: Ngoma in hiding after threats
12 April 2011
Lilongwe: The personal security noose seems to be tightening on Malawi’s civil society leaders, with Dorothy Ngoma, who has fled her home after receiving threats, being the latest target. Ngoma, who is executive director of the National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives, confirmed the development in an interview on Sunday. She said she fled her flat in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, on Friday after being advised by well-wishers that she was the next target for attack following her outspokenness on national issues.
Said Ngoma: "I received four phone calls on Friday evening, warning me to flee my house because I was targeted for an attack. I took the first call lightly because I convinced myself that I had done nothing wrong to cause me worry.
"Up to three calls followed, prompting me to take heed. I recalled my driver who had just dropped me to return and he picked me up from the flat. I cannot say whom I suspect at the moment or whether the calls were a hoax. I will not return to my house until my security is guaranteed."
Ngoma said she called a few leaders in government and her colleagues in civil society who advised her to report the matter to police. But Ngoma said she felt the police would not believe her; hence, she has not reported the matter.
Asked what she suspected to be the cause of the threats, Ngoma said it could be rooted from her close association with activist Undule Mwakasungula, executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR)—whose offices were attacked last month.
Said Ngoma: "I was also part of the civil society delegation that met the President and presented a petition on a number of concerns about governance and human rights issues. I have been in the forefront of the Pensions [Bill] fight at Parliament and also spoke out against the ill-treatment of Vice-President Joyce Banda."
Ngoma said she did not know whether these issues could have triggered anger in some people. But she insisted she is a trade unionist and a member of the civil society doing her job with no malicious intentions.
Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (Ccasu) acting president Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula also fled her home in Matawale Township, Zomba, last week following a tip-off from well-wishers that she would be attacked by unknown thugs.
She has been very vocal about the academic freedom stand-off between the college lecturers and the University of Malawi Council.
On Thursday, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) chairperson John Kapito was also summoned by Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Aaron Sangala where Kapito was allegedly asked to tone down on his criticism of President Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership.
Meanwhile, police have advised people receiving threatening messages through cellphones to immediately report to the nearest police station for proper action.
In a press statement dated April 9 2011, police national spokesperson Willie Mwaluka said the advice comes against a background of increasing reports of threat cases from "misguided individuals".
When Kabwila-Kapasula was threatened, she said she suspected some ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) operatives as being behind the move, claiming she had information the party functionaries met somewhere in old Malawi’s capital, Zomba, before they went to her house.
But DPP and presidential spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba distanced the party from the alleged planned attack.
Keywords: governance, civil society, Malawi