A day after violent demonstrations to force electoral body chairperson Jane Ansah to resign, President Peter Mutharika dubbed the protests as a means of toppling his government.
Mutharika, addressing the gathering at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre to mark the 55th Independence Anniversary Celebrations shunned by the opposition leaders, started his speech by preaching unity and peace but along the way, rebuked the opposition, challenging that they would not succeed in their plot to get into government through the backdoor.
The President also challenged that the opposition’s “sinister plot” could only succeed over his dead body.
But political analysts have faulted Mutharika, arguing his sentiments are of a leader living in denial.
University of Livingstonia’s George Phiri said Mutharika’s threats are ill-timed and will only make a volatile situation worse.
According to him, the podium gave the President a chance to preach peace.
“The President has seriously undermined the people’s anger. The protests are meant to force the MEC chair to resign not the President. But why is he panicking? He is sending a wrong message. For once we need a leader who is more logical in approaching issues,” Phiri said.
Another political analyst, Nandini Patel, said the President’s tone is quite harsh and unreasonable, especially looking at the prevailing situation.
She, however, said the protesters who have a right to demonstrate, needed to give the court a chance. Patel said the resignation of Ansah will not change anything immediately.
“I get confused. There is a court case and then people are demanding the resignation of MEC chair, will this immediately solve all the problems? People need to be patient,” she said.
Rafiq Hajat said Malawians won’t be intimidated anymore and the demonstrations are a sign of a population which is tired of mediocrity.
“Mutharika is an ultimate loser because he is provoking people with his threats,” he said.
Hajat said the president need to form a government of national unity if Malawi is to move on.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Gift Trapence said the President should be the last person to say careless words.
“Enjoyment of human rights is not nonsense. He should understand that Malawi is not under dictatorship. Such statements can only come from leaders who are dictators. There is no one who wants to overthrow the government. What people want is for Jane Ansah to resign,” he said.
Main opposition MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera, who came second in the presidential race and UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima, who came third, have continuously endorsed and participated in the demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), which have mostly ended up in violent acts that include arsons of State property and looting of private shops.
MCP spokesperson Rev Maurice Munthali described Mutharika’s speech as a missed opportunity to enhance his image in the face of the election scandal. Munthali said the President has lost public confidence hence he should make use of any chance to mend fences with Malawians.
Asked if MCP would accept any invitation for dialogue, Munthali said: “Who should invite who? Mutharika cannot invite us to a roundtable discussion as a president because we do not recognise his leadership. A neutral person can initiate dialogue where we can meet Mutharika as a leader of a political party not the President”
According to Munthali, Mutharika’s warning on the podium is misplaced describing it as “a war against himself because Malawians are against him and they do not want him so who will be fighting?”
But Mutharika, during on Saturday’s independence celebrations that lacked pomp apparently owing to the violent demonstrations, cautioned the organisers of the demonstrations to bring to an end what he termed “nonsense”, or they risk to be held responsible by Malawians.
“They want to create lawlessness so that they can take over this government. But they will only take this government over my dead body,” he said.
The President said the demonstrations are calculated to turn Malawi into a lawless state.
“That is why they want to undermine every democratic institution that ensures law and order in the country,” he said.
The President said his opponents want to undermine the courts because courts make democratic and lawful country.
“They want to intimidate our chiefs because chiefs are custodians of our traditional laws. They want to undermine the Malawi Electoral Commission because this is the body that oversees democratic transition.
“They are creating propaganda against Army and Police because these are hardworking security officers who keep law and order,” Mutharika said.
He said the demonstrations organisers want to intimidate vendors, shop owners and banks from doing their business because they don’t want the business people to succeed in their lives.
is created by selfish people who do not love this country. And these are people who do not love you Malawians,” Mutharika said.
The violence, he said, is unacceptable.
The celebrations, which started in the morning with thanksgiving prayers at College of Medicine Sports Complex, were themed ‘Celebrating our peace, with unity and love.’
The demonstrations have led to destruction of government property and officials of the DPP, and in all the cases, the DHRC has distanced itself, arguing the violent acts are being done by other people.
Former president Bakili Muluzi attended the celebrations at Kamuzu Stadium where there was also a football match between local clubs Be Forward Wanderers and Nyasa Big Bullets, it was almost a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) affair.
Mutharika earlier said July 6 was a great day for all Malawians because regardless of differences, Malawians came together in national unity.
“This is the day we remember who we are. We remember that we are all Malawians. And it is the day we must remember our national pride. But we cannot be proud of this country if we do not love it. This is the day we must raise our flags of patriotism,” the President, who led the celebrations in absence of the opposition leaders said.
Mutharika, who inspected guard of honour mounted by the Army, said for the past 55 years, Malawians had come to the event in celebration, but this year, they came with to the celebrations concerned.