This coming Tuesday on October 17, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is holding elections in Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency, Lilongwe City South East Constituency, Nsanje Lalanje Constituency, Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency, Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency and Ndirande-Makata Ward in Blantyre Malabada Constituency.
In all but one-Lilongwe City South East-the by-elections follow the deaths of the incumbents. My concern is the violence that has characterised the campaigns by members of the various political parties and their supporters, mostly the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
This violence has spilled over even to areas where there are no by-elections. A case in point is the violence that marred the Gonapamuhanya cultural ceremony in Rumphi last week.
There has also been violence in some districts in the Southern Region mainly Mulanje, Phalombe, Thyolo, Zomba and Chiradzulu. The ugly face of violence in these areas-connected to alleged bloodsuckers-has claimed seven lives and left many others injured, houses burnt and cars smashed. Regrettably DPP officials have blamed the violence on opposition and civil society organizations. I adequately dealt with this issue last week where I mentioned that the DPP officials missed the point. They should have condemned the killings and outlined plans to contain the violence.
Yesterday President Peter Mutharika toured the bloodsuckers’ hotspots. As I write this article, a day before his visit to the area, my hope is that his message will be one of pacifying rather than fomenting more violence which would be a recipe for more carnage in the districts by-elections. This is particularly so for Lilongwe City South East and Nsanje Lalanje constituencies-which are the most hotly contested seats.
As a father leader, one would also expect APM to rise above partisan colours and create an atmosphere that will calm the potentially volatile constituencies in Lilongwe City South East and Nsanje Lalanje constituencies. I am well aware that the President belongs to a political party and in that case he has a right to campaign for his party’s candidate as he has always done. But how he packages the messages is crucial not only for the good of his party but the whole country.
It is also most unfortunate the President is peddling the same tired lies to the people that if they want development they should elect the ruling party candidate. Such statements negate the notion of participatory democracy and the electorates will to vote for a candidate they consider most able to serve their interests. Such messages do not promote peaceful co-existence among members of the various political parties. They also do not show that political leaders’ understanding of democracy is maturing. Taxpayers whose money fund development come from all parts of the country.
APM can choose to further mess up, or make amends, douse the flames or fan them. The ball is in his court. The buck stops at him. But with only 19 months to the next Tripartite Presidential elections what is happening today will have far reaching consequences for the up-coming polls in 2019.
MEC should also be more responsive in resolving reported cases of violence so that people have confidence in it.
Everything considered I am aware there is so much at stake because the polls are a test of the political parties’ popularity in an areas. But at the end of it all, people will be saying the violence is taking place under APM’s watch.