Hon. Folks, the terror, agony and humiliation inflicted on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Brown James Mpinganjira (BJ) and others by a group of notorious DPP cadets last week shocked some people, but did not surprise many.
BJ was holding the floor during a DPP media briefing in Lilongwe when all hail suddenly broke loose right in front of the running TV cameras.
Mpinganjira, DPP’s administrative secretary Francis Mphepo, national organising secretary Chimwemwe Chipungu and legal adviser Charles Mhango—all of them loyalists to former president and party leader Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM)—claimed they had wanted to respond to the government’s handling of Covid-19 and the forthcoming by-elections.
Without warning the muscular youth militias clad in DPP regalia and blue soldierly berets stormed the venue and roughed up their officials while ordering all journalists to shut down their gadgets and disappear quickly.
it must be stated straight away that political violence is primitive and everyone in this imaginable ‘New Malawi’ must rise above partisan politics and condemn all forms of this appalling act as a way of fostering our young democracy.
It is clearly in the same spirit that many upright Malawians have denounced the outrageous physical attack and intimidation suffered by the journalists and the DPP leaders on that fateful day which also resulted in the arrest of some suspect(s).
Unfortunately—as witnessed in the video clip—the brutal thugs are all remnants of the previous regime whose gangs tormented Malawians with unspeakable pain under the watchful eye of APM’s regime.
Under his rule, some government and party officials directly or indirectly glorified violence and bankrolled jobless youths to unleash bloody terror on political opponents and critics to help their masters in consolidating their stay in office.
Hon. Folks, political violence has sadly also become a symbol of political heroism and contestation in Malawi over the past two decades of multiparty dispensation.
Towards the end of the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) rule, Malawians witnessed horrible attacks by the party’s young democrats who perpetrated bloody attacks and at times systematic elimination of critics.
In the early 2000s Malawi’s opposition, the media and civil society also endured threats, verbal attacks and doses of physical abuse from the young democrats who mercilessly unleashed their terror even in the presence of police during the open term and third term debates.
Fast forward to 2005, former president Bingu wa Mutharika who was handpicked by his predecessor Bakili Muluzi dumped UDF to form DPP after winning the 2004 elections on the former’s ticket.
Many politicians with violent political philosophies also jumped ship and followed Bingu’s new party and it was just a matter of time before Malawians started witnessing the rebranded forms political hostility.
After his re-election in 2009, the DPP groomed a violent youth wing that later carried out attacks on Mutharika’s critics from within and outside the party and even members of the public in the guise of protecting their master.
This tendency resurfaced under APM’s rule between 2014 and 2020 as the cadets revived politically motivated violence by the UDF young democrats which saw Vice-President Saulos Chilima withdrawing his candidature from the 2018 DPP convention amid many warnings of bloodshed at the venue.
But just like Muluzi and Bingu before him, APM also left government without doing far enough to ensure a safe environment for intraparty and interparty political opposition.
In so doing, these past leaders almost validated violence as a tool for preserving one’s stay in power.
All the previous regimes literally folded hands and secretly cheered their youth militias as they inflicted harm to Malawians and destroyed their property.
This is why much as last week’s events at Crown Hotel shocked some people; others were absolutely not surprised because political violence is a cancer that politicians have tolerated for decades to survive in the game regardless of which side of the coin one stands on—victim of victor.
DPP must surely tread carefully on these ‘camps’ supporting vice-president for the South and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa and APM who is probably grooming some successor to be DPP’s torchbearer in the 2025 elections after the 2023 convention.
In the main, all Malawians especially the youth must also remain law-abiding and shun all forms of political violence which have dented the country’s future for long.