Within a space of seven days Malawi Police Service (MPS) has controlled crowds differently in Blantyre and Lilongwe during demonstrations organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
While police are yet to arrest perpetrators of the violence that left human rights activist Billy Mayaya and four others injured following clashes between governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets and HRDC-mobilised protesters in Blantyre last Wednesday, 20 people were swiftly arrested in Lilongwe on Tuesday for alleged looting after diverting from the designated demonstrations route.
Video clips went viral showing Mayaya being attacked by some youth in DPP regalia. Previously, suspects have been rounded up using similar video clips.
The failure to arrest perpetrators of last week’s violence in Blantyre comes amid perceptions that Malawi Police Service (MPS) develops cold feet when it comes to acting on crimes involving DPP supporters.
When asked why police is taking long to arrest suspects in connection with violence that occurred near Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds in Blantyre, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said police were still investigating the matter.
He said police have not said they have closed the matter and that they will not arrest perpetrators of the Blantyre violence.
Said Kadadzera: “People should know that we are doing our job carefully looking into what really happened in Blantyre. A proper report will be made. We already said that we are still investigating the matter.
“We understand that some people, including Billy Mayaya, were injured and we are carefully looking into all that. Whatever the outcome, we will communicate. But it is not that we are arresting violence perpetrators in Lilongwe only.”
Reacting to police’s delay to make arrests in Blantyre, HRDC member Macdonald Sembereka said the coalition is not surprised.
He said the conduct of police in allegedly sympathising with the governing party is one of the reasons HRDC is lobbying Parliament to reject the appointment of acting Inspector General (IG) of Police Duncan Mwapasa as a substantive IG.
While avoiding a direct comment on police’s perceived selective execution of justice, lawyer Justin Dzonzi said the current political situation is a manifestation that someone is sleeping on the job.
He said if one takes a closer look at what happens during demonstrations, it seems there are some who instigate violence to portray a negative picture of protests.
Said Dzonzi: “If things are not changing it is because whoever is in charge wants this state of affairs because any other person who would be in charge of this country would have stopped this. We know somebody is sleeping on job.”
Last week, some civil society organisations, including Public Affairs Committee and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace expressed shock over the attack of Mayaya and four others as they exercised their constitutional right to demonstrate.