As parties wound up campaign for tomorrow’s elections, ugly scenes ensued in Karonga North West Constituency on Saturday night when alleged UTM Party supporters attacked and injured some Malawi Congress Party (MCP) officials and smashed vehicles.
Karonga Police officer -in-charge Tiyese Chiumbuzo confirmed the incident in an interview yesterday, saying they have since arrested UTM Party director of youth (North) Mzondi Mkandawire in relation to the matter.
Political and social commentators have since condemned the violence, stating that the incidents involving MCP and UTM Party, the main Tonse Alliance partners, are an indication of a broken relationship that needs quick fixing.
Chiumbuzo said police are conducting further investigations into the matter.
He said: “Indeed, some identified UTM Party supporters raided Lovemore Lodge and Pacific Lodge where they smashed four vehicles belonging to MCP and injured five people in the process. Our officers have intensified a manhunt to arrest the perpetrators.”
Last evening, Mkandawire was released from police custody last evening.
He said in an interview later that he had been granted bail and that police had charged him with malicious damage.
However, Mkandawire blamed the violence on MCP supporters.
In a separate interview, MCP campaign team leader Alfred Mwenifumbo, who is also the party’s deputy national director of elections, said the development occurred around 11pm.
He said: “UTM Party supporters brandishing pangas ransacked us on Saturday night, smashing vehicles. They injured some MCP officials in the process. We have reported the matter to police.”
Writing on his Facebook page, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka, said: “You can’t win people’s hearts through violence! The law will take its course.”
UTM Party national publicity secretary Frank Mwenifumbo condemned the incident in an interview, saying his party believes in peace and harmony during and after elections.
He said: “We vehemently condemn the act of violence on the MCP officials and property that took place at Lovemore Lodge by the unknown assailants. UTM Party will continue to observe peace and calm during and after the voting period.”
Malawi Elections Commission (MEC) Commissioner Anthony Mukumbwa has since described the incident as disappointing and a big setback, especially after the electoral body has been encouraging peaceful elections through chiefs, clergy and politicians.
He said in an interview yesterday that after spreading messages of peace in the constituency, MEC did not expect such last-minute barbaric acts.
Said Mukumbwa: “I am hopeful that the police will work in accordance with the law to bring to book perpetrators and mete out stiff punishment to deter others from the same acts in future.”
He assured all political stakeholders that MEC will go ahead with the by-election as planned, saying, “if others thought use of violence will propel MEC to halt elections, then they were misled”.
Meanwhile, University of Livingstonia-based political analyst George Phiri said in an interview that the continued violence should send signals to President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, leaders of MCP and UTM Party, respectively, that their relationship needs fixing.
He said: “The way forward would be to call for a meeting to review what they agreed, discuss differences are restrategise,” Phiri said.
In a separate interview, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Karonga Diocese desk officer Louis Nkhata, whose organisation has been implementing a peaceful coexistence programme for the election, also condemned the fracas.
He said: “The incident is an enemy to democracy. Let politicians avoid using the youth to cause havoc to opponents for their selfish political gain.”
About 53 231 voters are expected to vote in the constituency that fell vacant in February following the death of Democratic Progressive Party legislator James Kamwambi. Eight candidates are contesting for the seat.
During the November 10 2020 by-elections in Karonga Central Constituency, MCP and UTM Party supporters were also involved in violence attacks which left several people injured.
Last week, there were also reports of political violence at Tengani Trading Centre in Nsanje between alleged MCP and DPP supporters which CCJP and Malawi Human Rights Commission condemned.
MEC will tomorrow hold elections in Karonga North West, Ntchisi North West, Lilongwe Msinja South, Zomba Changalume, Nsanje North and Chikwawa East constituencies as well as Liviridzi Ward in Balaka West and Chitakale Ward in Mulanje South.