The Constitution guarantees the right for everyone to assemble and demonstrate their grievances but at no point does it allow anyone to infringe on other people’s rights.
The deplorable events of Tuesday when supporters of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) forcibly entered Capital Hill compound and proceeded to intimidate civil servants was uncalled for.
The MCP leadership that went to Capital Hill with the supporters clearly lied to them about the purpose of going to Capital Hill to air their grievances by the supporters through disrupting government business, harassing civil servants and stoning private vehicles of those who work in the government buildings.
To tell MCP supporters that the way to speed up the court petition on the election results is to camp at Capital Hill, stopping civil servants from carrying out their duties was clearly misguided and the thinking of individuals without a strategy or plan.
Civil servants do not hold the key to the 2019 tripartite elections and they are not Malawi Electoral Commission employees. Marching on Capital Hill does not demonstrate an affront to the one declared the winner of the disputed elections, Peter Mutharika.
The presence of a whole deputy campaign director in the company of two Members of Parliament of MCP was an indication that this action had the blessing of the party leadership.
MCP is touted for its four cornerstones of obedience, unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline but some of these were clearly lacking in Tuesday’s events.
With MCP’s strict adherence to the four cornerstones, it is without a doubt that a member of the MCP national executive committee could only act with the blessing of those at a very high level in the MCP hierarchy.
It is the MCP president Lazarus Chakwera who on Friday addressed the nation declaring that law and order would be maintained as their petition is taken through the court motions.
Clearly, Chakwera was speaking from the side of his mouth because a plan has been in place to carry out demonstrations in all the districts.
I would want to believe the instructions from the MCP leaders did not include removing flags belonging to other political parties, stoning vehicles, blocking roads, threatening innocent road users or entering Capital Hill to harass innocent civil servants.
Now it is up to the same leadership to bring sanity to the situation.
Civil disobedience is allowed as long as it is carried out within the confines of the law. The Police Act is very clear about what any individual or organisation wishing to demonstrate must do.
At no point have the police stopped anyone from doing that, what they have done and with good reason is to restrict areas where such demonstrations can take place.
It is shameful to admit but the Malawi Police Service does not have the capacity for crowd control when faced with a large group of people, armed or not.
Unfortunately, the only way the police know how to control crowds is to fire teargas which past experience has shown just incenses the protesters even more.
Whatever action that police take at this moment will be inexcusable but the blame will not only be on the police and their incompetence, the MCP leadership who have allowed this to go on will be taken to task.