Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Blantyre district governor Eric Motifala has vowed to counter today’s nationwide demonstrations organised by civil society organisations (CSOs) against disbursement of K4 billion fund to legislators and other issues.
Speaking at a rally in Limbe yesterday afternoon co-addressed by national governing council (NGC) members, including vice-president (South) George Chaponda and regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha, Motifala said the party’s youth will host a party at Kamuzu Stadium upper ground, the proposed starting point for the march in Blantyre.
He said: “Let me assure you all that the demonstrations will not take place here in Blantyre because our bouncers are on the ground monitoring the situation.
“I urge all my fellow vendors to come tomorrow and do our businesses as usual. If they [demonstrators] go on the streets tomorrow [today], they will find us there. We are ready for them if they continue with their plans.”
Chipping in, DPP youth representative Yasin Jomo Osman echoed Motifalas’s sentiments that the demonstrations will be blocked because the DPP youth cadets have organised a merry party at the Kamuzu Stadium upper ground.
He said: “We have organised a party at Kamuzu Stadium [upper ground] which will start at 7 O’clock in the morning. So, if they want to demonstrate, they should find another place and not in Blantyre. They will find us there and we are ready for anything.”
The rally was preceded by a DPP parade from the party’s regional office in Sunnyside residential area. The DPP supporters, clad in their party regalia of blue T-shirts, put business to a standstill as they blocked main roads in the city on their way to Limbe.
The scenes were reminiscent of events on the eve of the July 20 2011 nationwide anti-government protests against the administration of Bingu wa Mutharika when panga-wielding DPP cadets paraded in Blantyre central business district (CBD), warning people not to take to the streets.
While they were not seen with pangas yesterday, the DPP youth inconvenienced motorists and pedestrians alike along the way as they chanted: “Sitilora, ma demo amenewa! Sitilora, ma demo amenewa! [We won’t allow the demonstrations to take place].”
To undertake any parade, groups, including the faith community, are required to get clearance from Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the local government council in the area, in yesterday’s case Blantyre City Council (BCC) or Blantyre District Council.
When queried on whether DPP youth got permission to parade in Blantyre and why the police were nowhere to control traffic flow, Southern Region Police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani refused to comment on the matter.
Instead, he referred The Nation to BCC, saying anything to do with demonstrations is handled by the council.
But efforts to speak to BCC chief executive officer Alfred Chanza and public relations manager Anthony Kasunda proved futile as their mobile phones went unanswered.
However, in an interview on the sidelines of the Limbe rally, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is the official government spokesperson, contradicted party officials who vowed to stop the demonstrations, saying government wanted people to peacefully exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate.
Commenting on the developments, University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri condemned the DPP youth plot to stop the demonstrations. He said it is undemocratic because every individual or group has freedom of expression.
He said: “In our Constitution, there is freedom of expression. People are allowed to do peaceful demonstrations and there is no provision from the same Constitution that says people can sabotage demonstrations which have been planned to be staged peacefully.
“If DPP members would want to stop the demonstrations, it is an unfortunate situation because people are exercising their rights.”
Besides Chaponda, Dausi and Mchacha, there were also several DPP members of Parliament from Blantyre, Mulanje and Thyolo districts at the rally.
Also in attendance were senior chiefs Chimwala, Jalasi and Katuli from Mangochi; Traditional Authority (T/A) Nyambi from Machinga, T/A Mwamulowe from Rumphi and T/A Machinjiri of Blantyre.
Later in the day, there was a heavy presence of police officers along the streets of Blantyre who were moving on the patrol vehicles. n