President Lazarus Chakwera took advantage of the launch of construction of 10 000 houses for security agencies to condemn his Tonse Alliance partners for violence in the run up to the November 10 2020 by-election in Karonga Central.
The President said the violence, perpetrated by some members of his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party of Vice-President Saulos Chilima, was unacceptable and a disgrace.
Chakwera said he was waiting for the opportunity to condemn the incidents of violence that occurred in the run-up to the by-elections won by his party’s candidate.
He said: “That these incidents took place at all in this era of democratic freedom is unacceptable, but that they were perpetrated by fellow-members of the Tonse Alliance against each other is a disgrace.
“In this country, everyone is free to support and campaign for any party and any candidate they like in an election and to intimidate or assault anyone for exercising that constitutional right is a travesty.”
But political analysts have faulted the President for the delayed response, saying his condemnation is of no consequence since the damage was already done where people lost property and sustained injuries.
In an interview, socio-political and human rights commentator George Phiri of the University of Livingstonia wondered why Chakwera took long to come out and speak against the violence.
He said: “Looking at the issues, it would be very important if the President was responsive at the right time when things were happening.
“As president of MCP and the Tonse Alliance, he was supposed to come out. But he goes this time when it is calm, remember people were hurt. In fact he was not even supposed to talk about these issues. He is late; he should just have concentrated on the construction of houses.”
But while agreeing with Phiri that the President’s reaction was late, Mustafa Hussein, political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said party structures must always be used to end violence instead of waiting for the presidency.
He said Chakwera’s remarks in Karonga are of no consequence as damage was already done.
Hussein insisted on the use of multiparty liaison committees and party structures to take lead in solving problems.
In the run up to the elections, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Chifundo Kachale threatened to call off the by-election in Karonga due to continued cases of violence. However, on the voting day, people cast their ballots peacefully.
In a 2016 study on Electoral Conflict and Violence in Malawi: Patterns, Nature and Mitigation Measures, governance specialist Henry Chingaipe observed that in many cases, perpetrators of violence are not arrested or charged, with victims receiving little or no redress.
He r e commended that preventing electoral conflicts and violence requires building and nurturing institutional arrangements that enjoy broad-based legitimacy so that democratic electoral competition does not accord violence a place in strategies for winning elections.
And launching the housing project, the President urged
contractors to do the work to the required standard, on time and within the budget without any leakages or corruption.
He said the five-year project is also part of the Tonse Alliance administration’s delivery of the one million jobs, envisaging that it will trigger the mobility of capital, the generation of business transactions, and the increase of incomes.
On his part, Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa said the 10 000 houses was a minimum number as more houses will be constructed.
From the 10 000 houses, Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Police Service will have 4 000 each while the Prison Service and Immigration will have 1 000 each.
There are two categories of houses. Senior staff houses will have three bedrooms, including a master bedroom ensuite and a carport while those for junior staff will also have three bedrooms, but with common washrooms.
Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu told Parliament that government had completed the designs of houses for security institutions as well as recruitment of contractors. He said government successfully issued a development bond which raised K21 billion for the project