Political violence resurfaced on Saturday ahead of the November 5 parliamentary by-election in Lilongwe South Constituency with governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) blaming it on Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Police have since arrested 16 suspects in connection with the violence which, according to DPP officials, left 13 houses torched.
In an interview yesterday, DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said MCP was to blame for the violence because the party has previously proclaimed that Lilongwe is its base; hence, no other political party can go there and freely campaign.
He said: “Since MEC [Malawi Electoral Commission] announced the by-elections, people in the area, especially powered by MCP, are making everything possible to frustrate other candidates, especially DPP.
“Just last week, they burned 13 houses belonging to DPP supporters, including that of our candidate Frank Mazizi.
“It has become unbearable. It’s worse to an extent that you wonder what is happening in Malawi. We have written MEC on the same and as a party we condemn this. MCP should know that multiparty is here to stay. They are beating our supporters. Every minute it’s violence after violence.”
But MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka has dismissed the accusations that his party is behind the violence, saying people in the country are angry for various reasons; hence, resorting to violence when they find a chance.
While condemning the violence happening in the country and Lilongwe South in particular, he said MCP is not part of it.
Said Mkaka: “We are not attached to any of this. I understand angry people organised themselves against the DPP guys. We never and cannot send people to do violence or cause havoc.
“It’s really sad that DPP is pushing the blame on us. If at all there is a party that resorts to violence, it’s DPP. May be they are doing this to buy public sympathy. As MCP, we cannot go down that low.”
In an interview yesterday, Lilongwe Police Station spokesperson Joseph Kachikho confirmed receiving a report on the incidents in Lilongwe South Constituency. He said police are investigating and have since arrested 16 suspects.
“I can confirm the fracas took place, but we are still investigating the matter. So far, 16 have been arrested and are being kept at Ndaula Police Unit,” he said.
A witness at Ndaula Trading Centre, Danlot Njani, said in an interview that it all started when DPP members arrived at Ndaula Primary School purportedly to give people loans.
He said: “It was on Friday when DPP area chairman came and started asking for IDs, saying they wanted to give loans to people being a trading centre. Some people became suspicious, an independent candidate, went to check what was happening, but before he could engage the people, others who were watching from a distance started pelting them with stones.
“They [people] beat the area chairman so badly. As I am talking now he is admitted to Bwaila Hospital. His motorcycle was destroyed. His house was not spared either.”
Five people are vying for the parliamentary seat, namely Peter Dimba of MCP, Frank Mazizi of DPP, Julius Chombwe of Mbakuwaku Movement and independents Patson Kachingwe and Samson Phinifolo.
Dimba refused to comment on the violence, saying he was not around.
Mazizi said his people went there for business training and the fracas happened as they were interacting with participants.
He said: “I wasn’t there personally but the fracas happenned. It was caused by [supporters] of one of the contestants, an independent candidate. DPP suppprters were attacked and about 13 houses got burned.”
MEC director of Media and Communication Sangwani Mwafulirwa has since said the electoral body is yet to receive the letter that DPP says it has written them.
There have been pockets of violence in the area, especially at Ndaula Trading Centre in Traditional Authority Masumbankhunda.
The by-election in the constituency follows suspension of voting during the May 21 Tripartite Elections following the death of a UTM Party candidate Agness Penemulungu two weeks to the polls. During the launch of the by-elections, MEC officials also had a rude awakening in the constituency when voters questioned the electoral body’s credibility to hold by-elections amid controversy surrounding the handling of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.