The country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima has accused his boss President Peter Mutharika of unleashing political violence and tribalism in the country ahead of the July 2 fresh presidential election purportedly to disenfranchise some voters through intimidation.
But the State House has distanced the President from the reported cases of political violence during the on-going voter registration exercise, especially in Thyolo and Mulanje, saying Mutharika has advocated peace before, during and after the annulled May 21 2019 presidential election.
During a news conference he addressed at UTM Party Digital Command Centre in Area 10, Lilongwe yesterday, Chilima—who is also UTM Party president—also alleged that some governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) functionaries met and agreed to finance violence against opposition political party supporters, especially in the Southern Region.
He said: “Having failed in all those attempts to sabotage change and knowing that there is no way this election will be abandoned, Professor Mutharika and the DPP have now unleashed a new wave of violence and tribal rhetoric aimed at dividing Malawians and scaring those that dare challenge his evil plan of turning this country into an estate co-owned by two families.”
The Vice-President also said that United Democratic Front (UDF), which formed an electoral alliance with DPP, has the tendency of fuelling violence against Malawians who support opposition political parties.
Chilima’s outburst followed reports of attacks on monitors for UTM Party and its electoral alliance partner Malawi Congress Party (MCP) by suspected DPP youth cadets in Mulanje and Thyolo at the weekend.
He also condemned the attack on the home of Shaheeda Hussein, UTM Party Eastern Region director of women, in Balaka where her house and a UTM Party-branded vehicle were torched by unidentified assailants.
Reading from a six-paged prepared speech, Chilima faulted the attack on defenceless women, saying it symbolises “cowardice of those in positions of power” as Malawians are heading for the July 2 fresh election.
The Vice-President, who is expected to partner MCP president Lazarus Chakwera in the fresh presidential election, described Mutharika and DPP youth cadets as enemies of the nation and the people for allegedly unleashing violence.
He said: “In short, Professor Mutharika and the DPP have no intention of preaching non-tribalism or national unity. Their evil agenda is tribal hegemony. Their ideology is rooted in violence and intimidation. He and his party have decided to wage a war on the people of this nation…”
Reacting to Chilima’s accusations, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the President has always condemned violence perpetrated during post-election demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
In a written response, he said: “The President issued a strict warning
to his party supporters to restrain themselves against UTM and MCP supporters’ provocations. It is common knowledge that DPP supporters have been on the receiving end of political violence since May 21. They never retaliate. That situation came about through the leadership President Mutharika has been providing.”
On how Mutharika hopes to resolve violence issues as the national leader, Kalilani said the President, who is contesting for a second five-year term, will continue to preach peace.
He also proposed that UTM and MCP leaders should be responsible in their utterances, saying they should stop spreading hate speeches and tribal profiling.
On his part, UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo described Chilima’s remarks as unfortunate.He defended UDF supporters, saying they subscribe to the values of the party which passionately believes in peace and unity.
Said Padambo: “Everybody knows that UDF president Atupele Muluzi has been condemning violence. We believe in issue-based politics. Malawians will testify that the UDF leader has been condemning violence.”
Chancellor College-based political scientist Mustafa Hussein has since warned that the violence may degenerate into chaos if it remains unchecked.
In his view, violence is still deep-rooted in the country because political party leaders have failed to use party supporters who happen to be the youth in a productive way.
In February 2014, Mutharika roped Chilima— then a private sector executive serving as the first Malawian managing director of Airtel Malawi—into frontline politics when he picked him as his running mate. However, the pair widely seen as a blend of political and public sector experience with private sector hands fell out in June 2018. n