President Peter Mutharika has broken his silence on the issue of bloodsuckers that has created tension and fear in affected areas, vowing to get to the bottom of the issue with visits to the affected Southern Region districts.
The President’s sentiments on the issue that has seen some people killed on suspicion that they were bloodsuckers or harbouring some and about 31 arrested in connection with the attacks, is in sharp contrast to what two of his Cabinet ministers said last week when they dismissed the issue as a “myth” and blamed it on the opposition and civil society organisations (CSOs).
Speaking when he addressed a campaign rally in Lilongwe’s Area 23 where he rooted for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Reuben Ngwenya in the Lilongwe City South East by-election on October 17, the President said he has learnt with concern about the rumours and their impact on the suspects and their property.
Said Mutharika: “It is very sad that this is happening. I promise to get to the bottom of this and I am asking people in the concerned districts to desist from sensationalising the issues and also taking the law into your hands if you feel like someone is involved.”
The President said the rumours of blood sucking originated from Mozambique; hence, he plans to visit the affected areas—Mulanje, Thyolo, Phalombe, Chiradzulu and Nsanje—to find a lasting solution.
He said: “Beginning next Friday, I am going to visit the affected districts, meet the leaders to see the way forward how we should end the blood sucking issue.”
This was the first time the President has personally addressed the issue since it started and has seen the United States temporarily withdrawing its Peace Corps volunteers in Mulanje and some affected areas for their safety.
During an October 4 2017 media briefing in Lilongwe on the issue, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi and Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Henry Mussa failed to explain how government planned to contain the situation.
Instead, the ministers pushed the blame on opposition parties and CSOs. They also described the bloodsuckers as ‘mythical’ and appealed for “concerted effort” to deal with the situation.
“We have 55 political parties in this country, 515 CSOs. Why are they quiet on this issue where lives have been lost?” said Dausi, who particularly mentioned opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) over its silence on the issue as a cause for suspicion.
But MCP deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the accusation against his party was unfortunate and an indication that the DPP administration lacks direction in running government affairs.
In reacting to Dausi’s accusations, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence, whose organisation promotes minority rights, accused government of attempting to divert people’s attention from the issue.
Recently, traditional leaders in some of the affected districts, notably Phalombe, Mulanje and Chiradzulu asked the President to intervene because the issue had become unbearable.
In Phalombe, irate villagers descended on National Registration Bureau (NRB) officers on suspicion that they were involved in blood sucking, but they were rescued by the police.
Since September 15, seven people have been killed by angry mobs on suspicion that they were bloodsuckers.