Newly appointed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor (North) Reverend Christopher Mzomera Ngwira claims that President Peter Mutharika has not visited the Northern Region since his annulled re-election bid last May due to security threats.
The governing party’s senior official was apparently reacting to public sentiments and observations that Mutharika, a candidate in the July 2 fresh presidential election, could find it difficult to campaign in the Central and Northern regions having “ignored” the areas.
Ngwira said that following post-election violence that mostly happened concurrently with nationwide demonstrations to push for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners, DPP officials advised the President to keep away from the region.
He said: “There are reasons why the President has not visited the Northern Region… Even in the Central Region, he just passes by. The North is where people were killing each other, people were being beaten and the President could have exposed his members to violence.
“So, we told him not to come because there was war here. If he had come, it meant exposing DPP members. Thugs would have been following them to their houses. So, we said, don’t come, until the situation normalises.”
Records show that Mutharika last visited the Northern Region in March 2019 in the run-up to the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections whose presidential election both the High Court and Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal nullified over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
Ngwira’s sentiments come barely a week after opposition UTM Party accused DPP of torching its offices in Area 24 in complied with.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said: “The campaign period was expected to run up to 30 June 2020, but because the actual polling date has not been set, stakeholders should know that according to law campaign period must end 48 hours to the start of polling.
“The judgement of the Supreme Court has to be complied with. It is the responsibility of Parliament to decide on the date of holding Lilongwe. Two people—a mother and her son—have died due to burns sustained during the arson while five other members of the family are in hospital.
But sounding militant, he said DPP and its alliance partner—United Democratic Front (UDF)—will this Sunday address a joint rally at Mzuzu Stadium upper ground with UDF president and Mutharika’s running mate Atupele Muluzi as the main speaker.
Ngwira said the Sunday rally is meant to demonstrate that DPP is a revamped party.
He said: “While we do not want physical fight with our opponents, let me state here that if they beat us, we will not let them do it again. We will hit back harder.”
Ngwira accused UTM Party, launched in July 2018, of perpetrating the violence, saying DPP has lived well with Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UDF and never experienced such kind of violence.
Ironically, barely minutes after Ngwira threatened opposition parties, some unidentified people pelted the DPP-UDF parade with stones and police used tear gas to bring peace.
But reacting to Ngwira’s accusations, UTM Party director of publicity Joseph Chidanti Malunga asked the DPP official to mind his business and alleged that “everyone in Malawi knows that DPP is the most violent party”.
He said: “Everyone knows that all the violence is the hand of DPP. So, how can he go around and claim that it is UTM? Where have you seen us being violent? He should mind his business. This is campaign period and we should campaign on issues, people want to hear what we will do for them not how we will beat up people.”
Political commentator George Phiri, who teaches at the University of Livingstonia, said it was unfortunate that the DPP leadership was stooping so low to promote violence instead of calling for calm.
On Mutharika’s absence in the Northern Region, rights activist Charles Kajoloweka, who was among organisers of post-election demonstrations that at times turned ugly, said people have been victims of DPP’s atrocities and not Mutharika.
He said: “Activists like Billy Mayaya were stoned in Blantyre, Timothy Mtambo was shot at and his car and house petrol bombed.
“Truth be told, Mutharika has not just been absent physically in the North, but he has also been absent in development commitment.”
Kajoloweka wondered how the President could be afraid to visit the Northern Region purportedly due to security scare when he heads all security agencies and has freely visited Blantyre and Lilongwe where protests were also taking place.
Post-election protests organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition turned ugly, especially in the Northern and Central regions where some people vandalised personal and business properties.
Two weeks ago, a group of youths calling themselves Kuswa Kuswa in Mzuzu announced their joining DPP at a rally addressed by Ngwira and other functionaries. The youth publicly claimed responsibility for the violence during the demonstrations. However, to date, none of them has been arrested.