The dark smoke billowing from the political flames at recent funerals and other functions could be a tell-tale sign of a ticking time bomb that could plunge the country into bloodshed as Malawi inches closer to the next tripartite elections.
The violence of the past two weeks at funerals of veteran politician Robson Watayachanga Chirwa, Senior Chief Lukwa’s mother and a 2014 presidential candidate Abusa Hellen Singh (May their souls rest in peace) stinks. And in all honesty, this should be shaking us all from our roots.
If not nipped in the bud, this violence arising from lack of political tolerance among politicians—especially between the ruling Democratic Party (DPP) and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who have of late made more headlines for wrong reasons as sworn rivals—could have far-reaching consequences for the country.
These ugly scenes scare away potential foreign investors. Need I underscore for the umpteenth time what you already know that foreign investment helps a country’s economy fill investment gaps in manufacturing and infrastructure that may not be met domestically and which can be very positive for gross domestic product (GDP)? Violence in all its forms is a dangerous paring with the high levels of corruption in the country.
At worst, it has the potential to degenerate into a Rwanda-like genocide scenario that would easily erase the decades-long positives the country has made since independence.
While the onus is on both the duty-bearers and rights holders to ensure Malawi maintains its enviable reputation on the global scene as a peace-loving nation, it is incumbent upon the Executive, as the arm of government wielding the most powers—to take swift action and put a stop to this anarchy and mayhem.
The credibility of any election does not only lie in what happens on the voting day but spans the whole national electoral calendar period leading up to the polling day.
So far, I can say without fear of contradiction that sadly the Executive has demonstrated no pretence to create not even a minimum level-playing field for all tax-payers to access the State-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to reach out to the people with a diversity of political views.
The Executive should take the lead in banishing this ugly beast to the woods where it rightly belongs, not only because it (the Executive) controls the purse strings, but also and more importantly, because all the law-enforcing agents operate under its arm pits.
It is not far-fetched to conclude that the Executive’s decision to postpone the by-elections in Lilongwe and Dedza on the pretext of lack of funds is just the good reason. The real reason is that these are traditionally considered opposition MCP strongholds. The new Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should take notice that it needs to exert its foot and do the needful. It should at all times resist the seemingly sinister agenda of the Executive at each and every corner of the political game to outdo other players as this disenfranchises the electorates.
How the Malawi Police Service conducts itself in stopping the violence by showing level-headedness—albeit a far cry—is also key in determining the credibility of the 2019 elections. The police have the potential to douse the flames of violence or fuel it depending on how they conduct themselves. They should be aware that the Executive has a penchant of using it for political witch-hunting. And the police should not allow itself to be used for this.
We trust that as a reformed MPS they will quickly reclaim their core mandate of enforcing the law and once again start protecting all Malawians without considering political affiliation.