The presidential motorcade has come under the limelight for embracing civilian vehicles that join the cruising convoy during the President’s official engagements nationwide, posing a risk of accidents.
The tendency is predominantly familiar in the cities and involves governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials and other enthusiasts.
The latest incident occurred on Wednesday when a fleet of city-dwellers’ vehicles allegedly organised by the DPP joined the motorcade in Blantyre when President Peter Mutharika returned from his festive season holiday at the presidential luxury retreat of Chikoko Bay in Mangochi.
While State House says the civilian vehicles do not form part of the presidential motorcade, a security analyst has cautioned that the development is a disaster in waiting if left uncontrolled.
In an interview on Thursday, director of State Residences Peter Mukhito said in as far as State House was concerned they know where the presidential convoy starts and ends.
He said: “That is where the security detail maintains. So, whosoever joins is not part of the presidential convoy. Even if party officials come, they have a limit. Besides, there is a traffic vehicle that guides and separates them from the main presidential convoy.”
But asked if the civilian vehicles do not pose a danger considering that the drivers may not have been professionally trained to drive on a presidential motorcade, Mukhito said: “As State House, our responsibility is basically to look at the presidential convoy I have talked about for the rest you can perhaps check with the Malawi Police Service because those [civilian vehicles] fall under the police security because they are guided by a traffic police vehicle.”
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said a presidential convoy does not include any civilian vehicle, not even a party vehicle, and those that join it are not regarded as part of the motorcade.
But Alex Chisiano, a security analyst, said the trend needs to be controlled to avoid catastrophe.
While stating that he did not see any serious challenge if civilian drivers are fully briefed about their involvement on the convoy and their parameters, he observed that it was difficult to stop such vehicles because of the deep-rooted culture in Malawi of celebrating leaders wherever they travel.
Said Chisiano: “With that aspect of celebrating our leaders, what is important is to build security mechanisms that make the whole operation safe. As of now, I am not sure if those responsible take that aspect into account.
“If they are not, at some point we may experience a catastrophe not in respect of the President because he is fully covered but in respect of an accident involving other people like passers-by or drivers within the convoy because of overzealousness or excitement so all those issues need to be looked into critically before something bad happens.”