Roughnecks identified as Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets yesterday chased Lilongwe City Council deputy mayor Juliana Kaduya from a State function presided over by President Peter Mutharika at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc).
Opposition party leaders and a social commentator have since condemned the harassment of Kaduya by the roughnecks she identified in an interview later as DPP cadets.
The incident happened about 20 minutes before the President arrived at the venue to commission the $23 million (K16.9 billion) Malawi National Fibre Backbone Project that seeks to improve Internet and mobile telecommunications services in the country.
Kaduya said she was seated among invited dignitaries near the high table when a group of nine be-suited and bespectacled young men approached her, saying they were sent by their superiors to tell her to leave as she was an undesirable element at the Bicc function.
She said she briefly attempted to establish who wanted her out of the function and for what reasons. However, Kaduya said, noting that the gang insisted on her eviction order and fearing that any arguments may cause a scene at a national event, she obliged.
During the brief interview after her eviction, Kaduya told The Nation she recognised the people who kicked her out as DPP cadets, some of whom she knew by name.
When we tried to get more information from her last evening, she said: “Pardon me. I am now at the police.”
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila, who is also Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, did not pick his phone after calling him more than five times yesterday.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said in an interview he had been to Bicc and did not notice the incident, nor did he receive a formal query from Kaduya’s office.
He said: “When such incidents happen, it is imperative that the aggrieved people should lodge a formal report to the police. That is when we act on such matters and we investigate such matters professionally.”
At around 7pm last evening, Kaduya said she had filed the formal query with the police.
She said: “I had first gone to Area 30 [National Police Headquarters], before I was referred to Area 18 Police. Later, the police said they would investigate the incident.”
Confirming that the roughnecks who descended on her were “known DPP cadets”, the deputy mayor, who went into hiding after her election in January following threats from DPP functionaries, said while she was hesitating to walk out of the Bicc, someone phoned her and ordered her out. She said the caller told her she would be manhandled out of the venue if she delayed.
Said the deputy mayor: “I am traumatised. And while outside, I told the cadets that I would report the matter to the police. They arrogantly replied ‘which police are you talking about? We are the police in our own right!’”
Mzuzu-based social commentator Emily Mkamanga yesterday condemned the incident, expressing concern that the deputy mayor may have felt traumatised.
She said: “The DPP senior leadership should act decisively against these so-called cadets. Harassing, intimidating and embarrassing people like that runs counter to the democratic principles we fought for.”
Mkamanga also queried Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers who should have spotted the incident and slapped the aggressors with the famous charge of “conduct likely to cause a breach of peace”.
In his reaction, leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera also expressed shock over the development, saying DPP should discipline the roughnecks for showing undemocratic tendencies.
“Leadership should not turn a blind eye to these things. They are harbingers of national chaos–and the country does not need these kinds of incidents. They polarise the people, particularly during neutral national events or funerals,” said Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president.
Umodzi Party president John Chisi agreed with Chakwera that DPP officials should seriously investigate the incident and discipline those involved.
Kaduya, a DPP member, fell out of favour with her party in January this year following the mayoral elections for Lilongwe City Council that ushered in MCP councillor Desmond Bikoko. She won the position of deputy mayor after being nominated by MCP councillors, a development that led to conclusions that she might have been among DPP councillors who voted the two null and void votes that gave the MCP candidate a narrow 15-14 victory. She immediately went into hiding. n