Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor (South) Noel Masangwi on Monday confessed that the panga-wielding youth on the streets of Blantyre a day before the July 20 anti-government demonstrations were DPP cadres.
Masangwi told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the July 20 events in Zomba that the youth were meeting at the DPP regional offices in Sunnyside and took the pangas belonging to security guards at the premises.
His confession is contrary to what DPP spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba and campaign director Ken Zikhale Ngâ€™oma told the country when they distanced DPP youths from the panga-brandishing incident.
When commissioner Chris Giannakis asked Masangwi if he was aware of Toyota Hilux one-tonner pick up vehicles branded in DPP colours driving around Blantyre on July 19 with men brandishing pangas, the governor, who is also a businessperson, did not hesitate to admit.
â€œYes, I am very much aware of it. I heard about it, but I was in Zomba in my brotherâ€™s constituency. Normally, the [DPP] youth have weekly meetings and I was told that they were dropping each other in Machinjiri and Ndirande and they had pangas in their hands,â€ he said.
At first, Masangwi said although he could not explain why the youth decided to carry pangas, he said after inquiring from the regional youth director on what was going on, he was informed that they took the machetes out of fun and had no intentions to harm anybody.
He told the public inquiry that there was no connection between the DPP youths brandishing pangas and the violence on July 20 although he admitted that the â€œboysâ€ in the party vehicles could have done so after hearing about the impending protests.
â€œIs it normal for the youth to be driving the party vehicles with pangas?â€ asked commissioner James Naphambo, a lawyer by profession, to which Masangwi replied: â€œNo, it is not normal, but maybe it was after they heard that there will be demonstrations the following day, I just assume.â€
Masangwi also said it was not true that the youth were driving around town brandishing the pangas, insisting that they were on their way to drop each other after the meeting. He said they were stopped near Chichiri Shopping Centre and ordered to leave the vehicles at his offices.
â€œWe have pangas at our regional offices. Those pangas are for the security guards and they took the pangas without any authority. When the regional youth director phoned me, I ordered them to send the vehicles to my offices,â€ he replied when asked by commissioner Levi Mihowa about where the youth got the pangas.
On his part, commissioner Titus Thyolamwendo wanted to hear from Masangwi what action he took as a disciplinary measure against the youth to which he said he just spoke to them.
The commissionâ€™s deputy chairperson Apostle Timothy Khoviwa said the group has started the process of coming up with a report by analysing the data collected.
He said people would still be invited on need basis if the commissioners establish information gaps.