Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials on Wednesday cried foul after Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers prevented hundreds of the party’s protesters from entering Lilongwe City Council (LCC) premises to present a petition.
The DPP officials, led by secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey and regional governor (Centre) Bintony Kutsaira, wanted hundreds of placard-wielding demonstrators to flood LCC Civic Offices at the City Centre as they presented a 10-point petition protesting aspects of the February 3 2020 Constitutional Court judgement that nullified the May 21 2019 presidential election results over irregularities.
Jeffrey and Kutsaira had altercations with some MDF soldiers involved in crowd control despite their explanation that they allowed few officials into the premises to prevent disorder.
A visibly charged Jeffrey said: “Why should the rest of us be blocked from proceeding to the offices? This is unfair and this is why many people tend to believe that some of you, soldiers, handle anti-government demonstrators more leniently.
“I am ready to die while defending DPP and President Mutharika, who won the general elections. We, voters, will make our President the winner again in the fresh elections.”
The flashpoint, however, was in sharp contrast to the peaceful demonstration in which a large crowd of DPP supporters, mostly clad in their party’s blue colours, participated. It was a follow up to similar marches in Blantyre and Zomba last week.
Earlier, the other oddity occurred when a large group of unknown people blocked the M1 downtown Lilongwe, the route the marchers had planned to take, soon after beginning their trek near the Lilongwe Community Ground.
But as tension began to mount, MDF soldiers quickly moved in and re-routed the marchers through Mchesi Township to Kamuzu Central Hospital Roundabout to the Presidential Drive and onward to LCC premises.
During the Blantyre march, the DPP demonstrators carried placards which attacked the five-judge panel of the High Court of Malawi which heard the case as the Constitutional Court. They accused the judges of getting bribes to rule in favour of the petitioners—Saulos Chilima of UTM Party and Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
However, the Malawi Law Society rebuked both the DPP conduct and that of Human Rights Defenders Coalition, whO had also earlier held demonstrations to seal Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) offices purportedly to force MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners out.
During the Lilongwe march, DPP withdrew the placards that attacked the Judiciary.
At the Civic Offices, director of planning Hillary Kamera received the DPP petition on behalf of chief executive officer John Chome.
The petition’s ten issues include a demand for electoral justice, saying the party won fair and square and that no other party should attempt to assume the presidential seat through courts.
One of President Peter Mutharika’s advisers, Hetherwick Ntaba, read the statement before presenting it to officials.
From the Civic Offices, the DPP marchers proceeded to Kamuzu Palace where Mutharika briefly addressed them at the main gate. The marchers went to the presidential palace aboard at least 14 trucks which were parked along the road near civic offices.