When news broke that their leaders had been arrested, DPP supporters invaded the streets of Blantyre and police had to douse them with teargas to control them.
The DPP supporters’ response to the arrests has been condemned by people who participated in a Nation on Sunday survey.
The survey interviewed 1 050 respondents in 16 districts on the issue. Out of the sample, 700 respondents disapproved of the supporters’ conduct.
One of the dominant views that emerged from the survey was that the supporters should allow police and other law enforcement agencies to do their job.
Human rights activist Billy Mayaya said violent behaviour negates the right to demonstrate.
“While supporters of political parties are entitled to show grievances through protests and demonstrations, resorting to wanton acts of savagery and destruction of public property is uncalled for. It also nullifies the right to demonstrate. All protests are only right if they are peaceful,” said Mayaya in an e-mail response.
Political scientist Dr Henry Chingaipe said the conduct of DPP supporters has no place in a democracy.
“It cannot be justified. When people commit offences or are suspected to have done so, they will be arrested and taken to court. The behaviour of the DPP supporters is like they do not want the police to do their job.
“Police should not fail to do their job because someone has constituents that will react in a violent way,” said Chingaipe.
Asked what this means for the political temperature of 2014 when Malawi goes to the polls, Chingaipe warned that the country needs to become vigilant.
“People have become very politically sensitive. This is what is coming out from the DPP riots. As a country, we need to be vigilant, signs are already on the ground,” he said.
Government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu added his voice to the issue, saying rule number one in any democracy is respect for the rule of law.
“That cannot be justified in any democracy, the law doesn’t allow it,” said Kunkuyu.
Recently, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) said the arrest of the DPP officials and others should not be a source of violence.
“We wish to make an appeal to authorities that these arrests should not be turned into political arrests by failure to observe rights of those in custody.
“PAC believes that the right to fair trial in the current arrests as outlined in Section 42 of the Republican Constitution should be respected.”
DPP secretary general Dr Allan Chiyembekeza said he was outside the country when the arrests were made and he needed time to be briefed on the issue before commenting.