Police have earned rare praise for tightening security during campaign rallies the opposition Tonse Alliance held at the weekend, with commentators saying the move will curb violence ahead of the fresh presidential election expected before July 2 2020.
Professor Wiseman Chijere-Chirwa of Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi—and Tonse Alliance officials lauded the police for the visibly enhanced security arrangements during the alliance rallies at Namadidi in Zomba on Saturday and Monkey Bay in Mangochi on Sunday.
The improved security comes against a background of political violence rearing its ugly head on Friday when the motorcade of Tonse Alliance running mate Saulos Chilima, who is also the country’s Vice-President, was stoned in Phalombe, injuring journalists who were covering his whistle stop rallies.
On Saturday, some people barricaded the M1 at Mponela in Dowa to block Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-United Democratic Front (UDF) running mate Atupele Muluzi from passing en route to Kasungu and Mzuzu.
Both Chilima and Muluzi were forced to subsequently cancel their planned campaign rallies.
During the interview on Monday, Chijere-Chirwa observed that police effectively prevented more violence and security breakdown experienced during earlier campaign meetings.
He said: “That [impartial and professional action] is what police is supposed to do. It is their legal duty to provide security to everyone.”
Tonse Alliance—which comprises MCP, UTM Party and seven other political parties—praised the police in a statement on Monday for the protection during its rallies in Zomba and Mangochi.
In a written response to a questionnaire, MCP publicity secretary Maurice Munthali said: “An agreement was signed in form of an assurance from the police on that they will provide security during this campaign period. It is our belief that they are complying with what we agreed to during the engagement meeting.”
Visibly frustrated with rising cases of violence, UTM Party secretary general Patricia Kaliati publicly threatened to withdraw her signature from the MoU with police in apparent protest.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said n Monday that what people have noted is the beefing up of uniformed and plain-clothed police officers in view of the violence that was increasing.
He said: “As police, we have already been providing security to political parties. We will continue providing security to all political parties in line with our commitment.”
Kadadzera commended the politicians for their stepped up appeals for their supporters not to indulge in violence, but to report those who provoke them to the police,
During the peace accord’s signing ceremony, acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa made a commitment that his leadership will ensure police officers are deployed at all the venues where leaders of major political parties will be holding rallies.
Parties also made the commitment that they will not cause violence and that they will not hold campaign rallies at the same venue.
On May 7 this year, President Peter Mutharika’s convoy was also stoned in Ndirande Township in Blantyre.
He has since condemned the violence, urging party leaders from both the governing and the opposition sides to allow others campaign freely.