Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and political commentators have asked authorities to bring to book hoodlums who attack people holding divergent political views.
MHRC and the commentators said such impunity should not be tolerated as it threatens democracy.
The calls come against a background of some members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) causing havoc at Parliament Building on May 4 this year as President Peter Mutharika delivered the State of the Nation Address (Sona).
To date, none of the perpetrators has been arrested with Malawi Police Service (MPS) saying it is still investigating the incident. On the day, some members of Parliament affiliated to DPP but openly pushing for the presidential candidacy of Vice-President Saulos Chilima were also targeted.
MHRC has asked MPS acting Inspector General (IG) Rodney Jose to give an update on the progress of the investigations into the ugly scenes during the delivery of Sona.
In a letter to the IG, MHRC executive secretary David Nungu said his commission feels it is high time the police updated the nation on the progress.
He said: “In line with your powers and functions under Section 153(1) of the Constitution of Malawi, the commission expects that you will move and act on the perpetrators of violence herein and bring them to book.
“Consequent upon this expectation, the commission would like to be updated on the progress that you have made so far regarding investigating, arresting and prosecuting the perpetrators.”
Nungu also said it is the commission’s expectation to see justice prevail; hence, its launch of separate investigations into the cited cases.
Chancellor College political commentator Ernest Thindwa observed that the police is helpless in handling such crimes, describing it as dangerous and bleeding to the country.
He appealed to DPP to observe the rule of law as no one is above it.
Said Thindwa: “There is need for this impunity to stop as we approach 2019 elections, otherwise more violence from DPP will happen. To make matters worse, the police are failing to act. They are watching helplessly because DPP has become more powerful than the law.
“In DPP, the rule of law doesn’t apply to them. They [feel they] are above the law. Corruption and violence is the order of the day. This is dangerous as it is breeding impunity.”
Another Chancellor College political commentator, Mustafa Hussein, said there is need for law enforcers to act or people will be tempted to conclude they are weak and biased.
He said: “There is need for law enforcers to deal with cases objectively and not in a biased manner. The picture painted is that they are failing to deal with people in DPP or the ruling party.
“The police should not be helpless and they should not be intimidated by political forces. They need to act professionally for them to not be perceived as weak and biased.”
But MPS national spokesperson James Kadadzera said the incident at Parliament Building is still under investigation.
He said: “We have heard the questions and let me inquire on this and will let you know what will happen, give us time.”
But DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey said in an interview yesterday that the party is not above the law.
She said being a campaign period, people have excuses to dent the party and gain political mileage.
Said Jeffrey: “DPP is a party which abides by the law. We follow the law and nobody in the party is above the law. It is unfair that whenever things go wrong, the blame is on DPP. Let police do their work and avoid jumping into conclusions.”
She claimed that she, too, was a victim of the fracas on May 4, saying if the people who caused the fracas were indeed DPP, they could not have beaten her up.
“I was also beaten up on that day. It is just unfair that the media did not report this. It is also unfair that the media said the journalist was beaten in my full view. I went there to see what was happening and I ended up being roughed up as well,” Jeffrey said.
However, there was no independent source to verify claims that she was roughed up.