- Violence rises as elections draw closer
With the clock ticking towards the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections with each passing day, opposition parties and Public Affairs Committee (PAC) have accused the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of masterminding rising cases of political violence.
But DPP has since distanced itself from the cases of political violence with party spokesperson Nicholas Dausi stating that the perpetrators could be “people masquerading as DPP” supporters.
Meanwhile, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and Malawi Law Society (MLS) have warned that failure to address the issue of violence could have a negative bearing on the outcome of the elections.
Further, MLS has questioned why Malawi Police Service (MPS), whose officers sometimes are within the vicinity of the heinous acts and appear in video clips of some incidents, does not bring the perpetrators to book.
This year alone, roughnecks suspected to be DPP youth cadets have assaulted UTM director of youth Bon Kalindo in Mulanje, harassed and forced UTM supporters—including a woman—to undress in Mangochi and beat up Malawi Congress Party (MCP) operative Edward Govati in Blantyre.
Fingers point at DPP
In an interview on Moday, UTM spokesperson Joseph
He asked police to arrest the suspects, especially in cases where there is evidence in form of pictures and video clips.
Said Malunga: “What is more worrying is that the police is entertaining these acts. How does someone go overboard to tell a woman to dress down and ask her to be captured on video? Why did it take the police just a short time to arrest Kalindo yet they are failing to arrest these people when there is video evidence?”
People’s Party (PP) spokesperson Ackson Kalaile-Banda said in a statement that the erstwhile governing party is concerned with the spate of political violence perpetrated by alleged DPP cadets.
He said: “It is sad to note that DPP has become a bearer of violence against other political players, dragging the country back to one-party tendencies where alternative voices were labelled as sinful.”
Stakeholders wary of elections
For Chidanti-Malunga, the determination of elections to be free and fair depends on how the whole electoral process was conducted, and it will be difficult to conclude fairness of the elections if the situation is not addressed.
Kalaile-Banda also asked Mutharika to denounce the acts in the strongest terms.
Ironically, in his New Year’s Day address, the President appealed for peaceful coexistence among Malawians, urging the citizenry to embrace modern politics of tolerance.
PAC spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole also punched holes into the DPP for employing what he termed “intimidating tactics” ahead of the elections.
He wondered why the police, who sometimes witness these cases continue staying idle, with the usual promise that they are investigating the cases.
Warned Mulomole: “If we can’t deal with these issues now, we should be worried with the upcoming elections. It seems the ruling party is employing intimidation tactics, to send away people from the political arena. No one will want to vote amid violence.”
While observing that their engagement with political leaders seems not to be bearing fruits, Mulomole suggested continued engagements among stakeholders so that people learn to co-exist irrespective of political differences.
MLS honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde also said the violent attacks are retrogressive and if not checked, they are a recipe for chaos as the country moves towards the tripartite elections.
“We urge the Malawi Electoral Commission to make a stand, condemn and order a stop to these barbaric acts and employ punitive measures to those party leaders that condone such acts.
“The duty of the police is to safeguard law and order, protect people in this country regardless of political affiliations among other things. We strongly urge the police to take a bold and professional step to bring the perpetrators to book,” she said.
Cementing on the fears, MEC director of public relations and communication Sangwani Mwafulirwa said violence should not be condoned.
He said: “We are in a very critical period preparing for the tripartite elections. Whatever happens now has got a bearing on how the elections will be conducted.”
But Dausi said DPP is “very peaceful”, only that other people are trying to dent its image.
He said: “DPP is a peace-loving party. We are asking the police to arrest all those breaking the law.”
Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose also said it was wrong to claim that the police is doing nothing to deal with these cases.
He said: “When incidences of political violence happen, I get very concerned. But you and me, let’s also face facts and be very objective. Do you seriously think that making arrests will stop these things for good? There is a lot more that needs to be done.”
Presidential press secretary
Towards the end of last year, MEC led by its chairperson Jane Ansah engaged political leaders—including Mutharika, Vice-President Saulos Chilima, MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, Joyce Banda of PP and Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF)—in face-to-face meetings to commit to an issue-based and violence-free election campaign to ensure a free, fair and credible election.