Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leadership yesterday mulled over in-fighting that has turned ugly after the party ‘arrested’ seven men and three women suspected to have been on a mission to petrol bomb the party’s headquarters in Lilongwe.
The ‘arrests’ were made on Sunday afternoon, mirroring deepening squabbles within the country’s oldest political party.
While party president Lazarus Chakwera has many supporters, his leadership has lately been openly challenged by some senior officials and veterans within the party. Some of the critics of the Chakwera leadership have obtained court orders to push MCP to call for a convention and hold elections in the face of ‘unconstitutional’ appointments made by Chakwera in the national executive committee (NEC).
MCP deputy secretary-general Eisenhower Mkaka said in an interview yesterday that when he briefed the top party leadership, the news was received with shock and deep regret that some of the party members could dare to resort to expressing their views in a violent manner over political or structural differences.
He said: “We regretted that, apparently, two senior party officials, and three other members, seem to have instigated the recourse to violence. That is not how our party must function in this democratic dispensation. We must point out that we also see an external ‘invisible hand’ that is fuelling the squabbles.”
On Sunday, Lilongwe South West (MCP) member of Parliament (MP) Peter Chakhwantha, who is the party’s director of youth and security, rushed to the party headquarters at the City Centre soon after he was called by phone about the arrests.
The men included some members of the disbanded MCP paramilitary wing Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP). They were allegedly found in possession of pangas, a petrol jerrycan and a bag of maize.
Upon rushing to the MCP headquarters, after getting wind of the news on Sunday, The Nation noted that the alleged commandos were all in civilian clothing and were kept on the office floor at the reception area.
Chakhwantha said the alleged commandos had confessed that several senior party officials had recruited them to stage a coup at the party headquarters by initially doing away with the normal security guards at the large premises.
“The plan was to arson [ransack] this building as well as to seal the entire building to prevent the leadership, as well as senior party members from executing their duties in a way of crippling the activities of the party,” he stated.
Chakhwantha claimed that after staging the coup, the invaders planned to call for a press conference at which their grievances and agenda would be made known, along with orders that the current party leadership be barred from entering the premises.
He said the plans were foiled after the party had received intelligence reports, several days ago, that such a take-over was imminent.
A security guard at the MCP gate said the commandos started entering the premises from around 4pm and were pretending to be part of the largely volunteer security team at the premises.
The police have since remanded the commandos at the Lilongwe Police Station in Area 3, where their statements, and those of senior party officials, were taken on Sunday night.
Central Region Police spokesperson Ramsy Mushani said investigations were in progress.