The Chronicle (Lilongwe)

2 September 2002

Malawi: The Wider Angle


Lilongwe — The spate of violence sponsored by political parties in the country has reached levels that can not be ignored any more.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Henry Phoya seems to have discovered the vaccine that will eventually put to rest the politically motivated violence that had alluded our democracy for so long.

The vaccine is section 64 of the Penal Code which empowers him, as Minister of Justice to declare unlawful, any society if its objectives are among others, to wage war, kill or injure persons, destroy property or promote subversion.

Section 64 of The Penal Code was last used on the Jehovah witnesses, a Christian sect, by the Malawi Congress party (MCP) regime.

Henry Phoya, being a lawyer that he is, knows pretty well than some of us know what the Republican Constitution says in section 32. The Attorney General also knows which statue supersedes the other, between the Penal Code and the Democratic Constitution of Malawi.

The ŒHonourable' Minister obviously has not had sufficient spare time to look at the Constitution closely, especially section 32, after assuming his ministerial post. Ministers are supposed to be busy people, they say.

If he has missed the import of the supreme law I am happy to explain, hopefully in as simple a manner as possible just what this is all about.

Section 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi entitles every citizen the right to freedom of expression and of association and that includes the right to form associations.

Before the minister therefore begins to ban any association which he believes were created to wage war, kill or injure persons, destroy property or promote subversion he needs to read up on ALL the activities of ALL associations beginning with his own, the UDF. His attention therefore is drawn to the following pertinent matters: (1) UDF Young Democrats' assault on the president of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President, Gwanda Chakuamba and his Treasurer General, Hetherwick Ntaba in front of police officers at Kasungu police station. No arrests made so far although perpetrators were well known to even the police.

(2) UDF Young Democrats' assault on Chief Wimbe of Kasungu, because he had told the president that there was hunger in Kasungu, and that politicians would help if they, for once stop lying to the president and tell him that there is hunger in the country. No arrests made so far although perpetrators are well known.

(3) UDF Young Democrats' assault on UDF member of Parliament for Kasungu North West, Bamani Zgambo. Zgambo was attacked because he attended a meeting by the National Democratic Alliance. No arrests on his known assailants were made.

(4) Attack on MCP member of parliament for Kasungu South East, Kizito Ngwembe by UDF Young Democrats. He was beaten in the precinct of the Kasungu Police Station. No arrests were made.

(5) In Kawale, Lilongwe, supporters of the Malawi Congress Party burnt a UDF Iveco truck, registration BL 11, belonging to UDF and used by the UDF Young Democrats and was used to disrupt opposition party meetings. Arrests are yet to be made.

(6) In Chiradzulu, a landrover belonging to MCP was torched by UDF Young Democrats during a by election meeting. No arrests were made although the perpetrators are known.

(7) During the 2001/2 Budget Session of Parliament, a vehicle belonging to a supporter of the National Democratic Alliance was burnt within the Parliament premises in front of police officers. Several vehicles belonging to NDA officials were sprayed with red paint. Sheikh Mboma, an NDA sympathiser was also assaulted within the precincts of Parliament. Despite photographs of the fracas which identified the UDF Young Democrats being carried in the newspapers, no arrests were made.

(8) Soon after the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections, alleged supporters of the Alliance for Democracy torched and razed mosques in the Northern Region. No arrests have been made.

(9) Alleged Alliance for Democracy Young Democrats beat up UDF followers in a by election campaign in Kasungu North Constituency. No arrests have been made.

(10) At Mzuzu Hotel, Reverend Kalebe of the Church for Central African Presbyterian was assaulted in a case of mistaken identity. The assailants, UDF young democrats attacked him thinking that he was Bishop Tengatenga, of the Anglican church. Apparently Bishop Tengatenga delivered a sermon during the Independence celebrations that upset some in the UDF as it rebuked political leaders for their failure to put the interests of their subjects before their own. No arrests were made despite police presence as well as senior members of the UDF, the Speaker included.

(11) Sheikh Bughdad was assaulted by alleged UDF young democrats in Liwonde.

He fled to Zambia, where he eventually died. No arrests were made then or now.

(12) In Blantyre, MCP supporters beat to death an alleged UDF Young Democrat who was in the company of other Young Democrats on a mission to disrupt a political rally by the MCP. Some MCP supporters were arrested. But the case is now silently gathering dust in the court's archives.

(13) In Blantyre, at the High Court, supporters loyal to MCP president Gwanda Chakuamba clashed with followers of his vice, John Tembo. There was heavy police presence at the court, but no arrests were made. (The two factions found themselves at the High Court because MCP president, Gwanda Chakuamba is asking the court to commit to prison, his vice on charges of contempt of court.) (14) During the second hearing of the Chakuamba/Tembo case, supporters of the two leaders descended on each other. Police arrested some of Chakuamba's followers only.

(15) NDA leader, Brown Mpinganjira together with his followers were ambushed at Bunda roadblock, with the help of the police, who told them that a group of suspected National Intelligence Bureau officers, who were in a car parked near the roadblock wanted to have a word with them. NDA officials using another vehicle returned to Lilongwe with the suspected NIB chasing them.

The NDA officials sought refugee at regional police headquarters but the suspected NIB followed them there, beat them up and smashed their vehicle.

No arrests were made.

(16) AFORD supporters vandalised Chenda Supermarket in Mzuzu. After the UDF won the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections, its supporters in the north were celebrating and in the process they broke into AFORD offices, Chenda Mkandawire was present during the victory march. His superette was broken into and goods vandalised in retaliation. No arrests have yet been made.

(17) In Ndirande, Blantyre UDF Young Democrats who tried to disrupt a rally organised by MAFUNDE were chased away and beaten by supporters of the party.

No arrests were made.

(18) In Chilobwe, Blantyre MAFUNDE followers beat up and injured some UDF Young Democrats who tried to stop them from erecting a podium for their rally. No arrests were made.

(19) The interim chairman of MAFUNDE was assaulted by alleged UDF roughnecks at his offices. No arrests were made.

(20) In Mulanje, a UDF constituency governor died after he was stabbed by alleged NDA followers. According to media reports, UDF Young Democrats abducted two NDA followers. NDA claimed that they reported the incident to the police but no action was taken. They then took it upon themselves to rescue their colleagues and in the process stabbed the constituency governor, who died in hospital later. Three NDA followers were arrested.

CONCLUSION These are but a few of the cases, but only a compilation of a cross section of the numerous cases that I could remember. Going through the list, three deaths have been recorded so far.

From the 20 cases of violence recorded, here are some points worth taking note of: i) 16 cases were initiated by UDF Young Democrats ii) Blantyre recorded six incidents of political violence, Kasungu five, Mzuzu and Lilongwe both had three, and Mulanje, Chiradzulu and Liwonde had one case each.

iii) Malawi Congress Party was behind two incidents.

iv) AFORD initiated two incidents.

v) Six assaults occurred in front of police offices with no arrests being made.

vi) MCP supporters fought between themselves twice, while UDF supporters fought between themselves once.

viii) Three cars were burnt ix) One chief was assaulted x). Two Moslem sheikhs and a CCAP reverend were assaulted and, xi) So far, more than 6 people have been arrested from NDA.

The above information and statistics is vital for the Attorney General to make his decision as to which political party or association has objectives that include, to wage war, kill or injure persons, destroy property or promote subversion.

The Attorney General, in dispensing his section 64 of the Penal Code vaccine, must start with the chronically ill.

He must also remember that the president has never condemned any acts of political violence when the opposition were on the receiving end and him doing so now has to be questioned. Phoya's reaction to Muluzi's tirade now, although appropriate, comes too late and for the wrong reasons.

Why should we always play at politics, especially when circumstances suit us?

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