President Peter Mutharika has courted more public outrage over his statement alleging that opposition leaders are architects of the prevailing political violence ahead of the fresh presidential election set for June 23.
In a statement dated June 8 2020 and signed by presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani, the President said he had noted with concern that despite his calls against violence, the problem was continuing.
Mutharika mentioned by name Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Tonse Alliance presidential candidate, as having inaugurated the violence after he allegedly declared to shed blood in May 2019.
He said since then, demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and joined by MCP and UTM Party officials have “unleashed untold violence” on innocent Malawians, including supporters of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Mutharika warned opposition leaders that his government would descend “seriously on those planning, funding and executing” political violence.
In the statement, Mutharika cited several areas where political violence has erupted and in all cases, he blamed the opposition and HRDC leadership for orchestrating it.
Ironically, the President avoided mentioning DPP cadets who have also been allegedly accused of perpetrating political violence, especially in Phalombe, Liwonde in Machinga and Lilongwe.
But in an interview, Kalilani defended the President, claiming that Chakwera’s declaration of bloodshed started it all.
But opposition political parties, political analysts and peace and security studies experts have described Mutharika’s pronouncements as unfortunate, unfair and uncalled for from a leader who should be a unifying figure.
MCP spokesperson Maurice Munthali said Malawians recognise DPP as the fountain of political violence.
He said: “Any problem in a country boils down to poor leadership and that is what we are witnessing.”
Munthali asked Mutharika to stop blaming other leaders because he is the one in control of the whole security system.
Peace and security studies expert, Master Dicks Mfune,who teaches at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi—claimed that Mutharika was aspiring to put the nation under State of Emergency.
He said: “I would like the President to think twice, thrice before taking his action which I see is a premeditated decision. I would like to strongly warn the President against such declaration because the repercussions will have adverse effect.”
Mfune, who is a global peace ambassador, advised Mutharika that his administration was tarnishing the country’s image and leaving a bad legacy about his governance, saying the development would result in Malawi slipping in its ranking on the Global Peace Index because of the escalated violence.
Political scientist Ernest Thindwa, also from Chancellor College, said Mutharika’s attempt to blame the opposition parties and human rights defenders was grossly misplaced.
“Demanding electoral justice through demonstrations cannot be reduced to political violence because it is a constitutional right,” he said.
Thindwa said any lapses should “squarely be blamed on the compromised police service which, instead of serving Malawians, has been repurposed to be an instrument of the ruling party”.in security during demonstrations
He also asked Mutharika to free the police so that it can enforce the law professionally.
Pastor Zacc Kawalala, who chairs the Ethics, Peace and Justice Commission at Evangelical Association of Malawi said it was unfortunate for the Head of State to push the blame on others when he holds supreme authority over internal security.
The President has also come under fire from Malawi Law Society, Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Magistrates and Judges Association of Malawi and other stakeholders for his attacks of the Judiciary for nullifying the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities, especially in the results management system.