In a shameless show of incompetence and arrogance, the Malawi Police Inspector General (IG) Rodney Jose has ordered Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to ‘forthwith’ ‘stop convening demonstrations until such a time when it would be possible to convene and hold peaceful demonstrations’. In what he must have thought was a strong letter that would make the HRDC leaders pee in their pants, the blue coloured IG gave several reasons for the decision.
In the letter which is circulating on social media Jose said, “The Malawi Police Service has recorded a worrisome number of cases of injury to persons and damage to property during demonstrations”. This is true but the blame should one hundred percent lie on the police. There are two types of injuries from the demonstrations; injuries on protesters caused by violence perpetrated by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets and injuries on DPP cadets that occurred during confrontation with Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers who intervened to protect demonstrators from the cadets.
The blame should be laid on the police because the protesters suffered the injuries in full view of the police who deliberately turned a blind eye in fear of DPP cadets. This has been the trend for a long time. The Police is no longer independent. It serves DPP’s interests.
Sporadic destruction of property and chasing of police officers by the protesters has resulted from heavy-handedness of the police in handling the demonstrations. In earlier demonstrations, the police wantonly threw scores of teargas canisters at the MCP headquarters where MCP supporters converged in preparation for a demonstration in demand for electoral justice. The police just threw the teargas without any provocation from the protesters at all.
This was clear police violence against the people they are supposed to protect. Bonafide Malawians were treated as enemy combatants for just having an appetite to demonstrate, a right which is duly enshrined in the constitution. Such actions have been very common, and people regard the police as enemies. The same has not been the case with the army which has been professionally providing security during demonstrations.
Using the reasons above, Jose said, “on our part, we are unable to provide adequate protection for the people participating in these demonstrations and those affected by the same”. This shameless admission of incompetence is incredible. All that Jose needs to do is to resign because of his own admission of failure.
The ‘failure’ to provide security and citizen’s loss of trust on the police has been long time coming. The police have been acting unprofessionally. Police powers have sometimes been used to order arrests and torture of innocent people with dissenting views.
The police have been infiltrated by DPP cadets who only serve party interests. Overtime, Mutharika’s DPP has recruited its youth cadets as police officers. Some of such officers were filmed doing door to door campaign for a DPP parliamentary candidate in the southern region of Nsanje.
The other police officers who are apolitical and professional lack incentives. The police lack proper training and equipment for crowd control resulting in poor crowd management which angers protesters. The officers live in dilapidated houses and mainly in rented houses in slums. DPP promised them 10,000 houses, parliament provided funding but just a handful houses were built. The money that is supposed to be used to provide training, buy equipment and build houses is stolen through corruption that benefits police bosses and the ruling party.
Last year, the country learnt with shock that DPP and the so-called Commander in Chief President Peter Mutharika benefited from a Malawi Police Service fraudulent procurement deal. The party pocketed K145 million in a procurement scandal masterminded by some senior police officers that defrauded the taxpayers of K466 million in a ration racket of over K2 billion.
This is just one example of police corruption involving billions of monies that could be used to provide incentives for police officers and improve police operations. These are things that Jose should sort out and not blaming protesters for his incompetence.
But we know his interest lies in maintaining DPP in power. He simply wants to stop the demonstrations which have threatened DPP’s grab on power. Jose’s attempt to stop the demonstrations is just one of many DPP’s plots to stop demonstrations.
With DPP, you are one hundred percent assured of mediocrity and poor political strategic thinking. As the demonstrations continue to bite the core of DPP, futile and silly attempts to stop people’s freedom of expression and right to demonstrate have been tried. It’s funny to watch.
It started with police teargassing protesters. Then DPP cadets beat protesters to scare them but they failed. Seodi White’s crying drama and her government sponsored ‘women’ demonstrations followed without success. DPP tried using city councils to deny permits for demonstrations. They tried counter demonstrations called ‘victory parades.’ They also sponsored a strange ‘demonstration against demonstrations’ conducted by ‘Lilongwe vendors.’
All these poor efforts miserably failed. Demonstrations are getting stronger every day. All this could have been avoided if Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Jane Ansah resigned. It’s very simple. But Mutharika believes he is a boss not a people’s servant. He doesn’t want to bow down to his ‘subordinates.’ For that, he will pay a heavy price. This latest attempt through the partisan Inspector General will not help. And if the IG can’t guarantee security, he should resign.