- Woman, hubby, 5 children battle for life
Political violence reared its ugly head again and left a Lilongwe family of seven for dead from burns sustained after unidentified hoodlums set ablaze a UTM Party office in Area 24 on Monday.
Two women—Ayiles Tambala (50) wife to Seleman Tambala (also 50) working as a security guard at the premises and UTM Party Lilongwe City South West Constituency chairperson Loveness Mwala—emerged as heroines in their frantic damage-limitation roles.
“I salute Mai Tambala for running out of where she and their five children were sleeping and alerting the neighbourhood that the office was on fire. This was soon after midnight,” Mwala said in an interview at the site on Tuesday morning.
“When I rushed to the scene, I was shocked to see my neighbour dashing in and out of the inferno several times, rescuing the family’s shocked and crying children one by one.
“I also helped her, including by trying to save their household properties from the fire. Other well-wishers were also trying to put out using water containers.”
But Ayiles’ heroism came at a huge cost as she alongside her children and husband suffered various degrees of burns. She also inhaled fumes to the extent that she collapsed and was taken into the high dependency unit (HDU) at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH). Her husband and the five children are all admitted to the hospital.
The children are three-year-old Shareef, Kennedy (5), Chikulani (7) Ahmad (9) and William (11).
When the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima—who is also UTM Party president—and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera visited the family at the hospital at about midday on Monday, the family members were visibly in agony.
The seven were seen wrapped with bandages all over their bodies. The parents had their faces seemingly deformed while two of the children lay on their respective beds, speechless.
They could not move their bodies, but their eyes could be seen blinking each time Chakwera and Chilima tapped them to appreciate the pain and predicament they were in.
The torching of the UTM Party office came barely two days after unidentified thugs also burnt a UTM Party-branded vehicle in Balaka and hours after Chilima condemned the spate of political violence.
During a news conference in Lilongwe, he accused President Peter Mutharika and governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of unleashing terror in the run-up to the July 2 fresh presidential election to intimidate voters.
In a low-tone, Chakwera condemned the violence, saying it is something that should not be happening, especially at a time the country is heading to the election.
He said: “This is not on. Perpetrators of such actions must not be allowed to continue doing such things. When you look at young children and their parents, you see the degree they are burnt.
“It’s incredible that somebody could be so callous to do stuff like this. We want this kind of things to come to a stop.”
Chakwera and Chilima said they believe that the violence is a ploy to provoke opposition party supporters to trigger interparty violence and prompt postponement of the fresh election.
But presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani has defended the President, distancing Mutharika and DPP officials from violence.
A visibly charged Chilima, who is pairing Chakwera in the election, said: “As I said on Monday and as I have said before, the day of reckoning shall come. I don’t see the reason why they should harm innocent people, people who were just sleeping. They argued with nobody.
“This attack was a deplorable act. Whoever did it is worse than any dog. This was attempted murder and the police have done what they know best, deleting evidence.”
Reacting to the torching of UTM office and the family, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said police were equally concerned with the matter.
But he could not provide an account of what happened, saying he was yet to be briefed.
Said Kadadzera: “It is true that political violence is on the increase. I know our investigators are on the ground. We are going to investigate the matter to its logical conclusion.”
When put to him that police have not acted on previous cases of political violence, especially when opposition parties are victims, he said law enforcers have tried their best to ensure that culprits are arrested.
Kadadzera also indicated that Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa plans to invite political party secretaries general to a round table discussion to map the way forward on resolving political violence.
Soon after Chilima’s press conference on Monday this week, Chancellor College based political scientist Mustafa Hussein warned that the violence which Malawians are seeing now will degenerate into chaos if political party leaders leave it unchecked.