Clad in their party attire, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets yesterday pelted stones at leaders of opposition political parties that attended Gonapamuhanya, a Tumbuka ceremony at Bolero in Rumphi.
The cadets first attacked Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera and his security detail at around 10am, as he was getting to Bolero.
Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament, had to be whisked away from the fracas using another vehicle Tumbuka Paramount Chief, Chikulamayembe sent.
He sought refuge at the chief’s house for some time. While Chakwera was at least safe at Chikulamayembe’s house, lieutenants, at the venue of the ceremony, were not.
For instance, the cadets manhandled MCP’s chairperson of the North, Kezzie Msukwa. Despite sitting next to former vicepresident Khumbo Kachali, who had police security, the cadets still forced Msukwa out of his chair, telling him to leave the place.
Looking furious, Kachali left the venue fuming, and never returned. Things turned worse at around 11.30am when Chakwera and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) president Enock Chihana arrived at the venue. From all corners, stones were being pelted at the two leaders’ cars.
After disembarking from his vehicle, a heavy stone missed Chihana by a whisker, and he was seen running for his dear life.
It took almost 20 minutes for Chakwera to get out of his car, which was heavily surrounded by his security detail. While all this was happening, DPP women were busy dancing, and police never acted.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia, who is also deputy secretary general for DPP, also did nothing. Angered by the situation, some chiefs chased the DPP women and all youth cadets from the venue, to bring order.
It took another 20 minutes for the situation to normalise. Chairperson of the organising committee for the event, principal group village head Chikalamba Gondwe has since condemned the fracas, telling political parties to leave Gonapamuhanya out of their battles.
He wondered what would happen in 2019 when the country goes to the polls. “If you don’t want to be part of this event, then stay home. Don’t spoil our ceremony.
I am very disappointed with what has happened and political leaders must tame their youths. What has happened is shameful. We don’t want this in future,” he said.
While Chakwera said the issue was “nothing” and refused to provide a detailed interview, Kachali, on the other hand, said he left because he could not stand the violence.
“Some of us know only peace, and I am leaving because I can’t stand violence. It is better for us to leave so that other people don’t have to be inconvenienced,” he said.
On his part, Chihana, who is also parliamentarian for Rumphi Central, described the fracas as not only unfortunate, but also a barbaric act.
“This is a traditional function where we are supposed to coexist, and celebrate our culture as Tumbukas. But what the DPP has done is very shameful, not only to Malawians, but the whole world,” he said.
Minister Chiumia apologised to Chikulamayembe for the fracas, urging all political parties to instill discipline in their youths.
“I am very sorry for what has happened, we came here for culture, not a fight. This is sad and I am very sorry. This behaviour must be condemned as we will investigate what actually happened,” she said.
Quizzed why the police never acted when cadets were throwing stones, and why she never ordered arrests, Chiumia said it was not ideal to rush into making arrests before getting to the bottom of the issue.