Tension rose to another high on Wednesday as youths closed the Paul Kagame Highway in Lilongwe, declaring Machinga North East Member of Parliament (MP) Atupele Muluzi as their president.
The youth, hoisting tree branches and chanting anti-government and anti-President Bingu wa Mutharika songs, defied the presence of armed anti-riot police officers.
Atupele was arrested at Bunda Turn-Off Roadblock in Malawiâ€™s capital, Lilongwe, on Tuesday for allegedly inciting violence at a United Democratic Front (UDF) rally in Lilongweâ€™s Area 24 on Sunday.
Police clashed with residents and several people sustained injuries while an angry mob, in apparent revenge, burnt down a police unit.
On Wednesday, Atupele was taken out of Maula Prison in a dramatic car chase to three hospitals in a space of one hour and was finally admitted to City Centre Clinic with high blood pressure.
Supporters on rampage
Meanwhile, his supporters went on the rampage in the capital city, stopping all business.
The afternoon chapter of the highly charged political scene started with a visit to Maula by the German Ambassador Dr Peter Woeste.
However, soon after the German envoyâ€™s departure, Leader of Opposition John Temboâ€™s convoy arrived and there were indications that the UDF 2014 presidential aspirant was not well.
Prison authorities summoned police officers and they quickly rushed him into a prison vehicle and several fully armed police vehicles followed and a high speed chase with a dozen UDF vehicles ensued along the road with supporters claiming police were out for a mischief.
Police riot vehicles rushed into town, but they were clearly outnumbered as most of the police officers had lined up in the streets all the way to Mangochi where Mutharika is scheduled to preside over an International Water Day engagement this Thursday.
â€˜Change comes with painâ€™
Earlier, Atupele, in an interview at Maula, appealed for calm, especially from the youth, saying change comes with pain.
Atupele spoke when Vice-President Joyce Banda paid him a visit on a day full of drama. The prison was engulfed in a carnival atmosphere that some old-timers equated with the arrest and trial of the multiparty icon the late Chakufwa Tom Chihana.
â€œTell Malawians I am in good spirits. I appeal to them to remain calm and more importantly to uphold peace. I am in good spirits and tell them the process of change will continue in or outside prison walls,â€ he said.
â€˜Malawiâ€™s democracy bleedingâ€™
On her part, Banda said the countryâ€™s democracy is â€œbleedingâ€, saying allowing people to exercise and enjoy their rights will allow peace to continue than arbitrary arrests.
Banda, whose arrival at the prison caused commotion as the 2 000-plus prisoners sang and chanted her name, said she had come in solidarity with Atupele as he was only â€œgiving hope to Malawians.â€
In an interview later, Banda said the countryâ€™s democracy was at a crossroads, saying arbitrary arrests were becoming common and vindicating those that argued that Malawi was on a wrong path.
â€œI am sure our heroes must be turning in their graves. This is not what Bakili Muluzi and the late Chakufwa Chihana and others fought for. This is unnecessary. It is one of those times when one wonders where we are heading to,â€ said Banda, who herself had to endure police humiliation by being asked to walk to the prison.
Meanwhile, Atupeleâ€™s arrest, which has received massive publicity locally and internationally, offered UDF loyalists an opportunity to stage a political carnival.
â€˜Political temperatures risingâ€™
Every minute the young Muluzi is being held in detention, his supporters, family, sympathisers and the media is documenting it, causing massive outpouring of anger against Mutharikaâ€™s administration.
Outside the prison, people chanted songs, cracked jokes and, at times, expressed fury, an indication of how high political temperatures are at the moment.
Prison warders were seen slapping FM 101 journalist Nathan Majawa as he tried to enter the gates despite identifying himself, whereas Blantyre Newspapers Limited and Nation Publications Limited cameras were refused entry at the first check-point mounted by police.
Women, clad in UDF attire, sang songs in praise of Atupeleâ€™s father, Bakili, as a true democrat.
Musician Lucius Banda said: â€œThis is for the young generation. We are determined never to be afraid of people who use State apparatus to intimidate opponents.â€
The police had earlier blocked Joyce Bandaâ€™s convoy from proceeding to the prison premises. This only gave the sympathisers more ammunition to sing and chant anti-Mutharika songs.
The Vice-President walked before Lucius picked her up to the loud cheers of the crowds. Inmates at Maula joined in chanting: â€œAmai omwewoâ€ and â€œJBâ€ as she entered the prison to see Atupele.
She called her walk â€œa necessary evil we have to undergo to be free.â€