The grotesque spectre of political violence that reared its hideous head at Goliati in Thyolo on March 14, when President Joyce Banda visited, has disfigured this election. It resulted in two fatalities, including a police officer; and many injured.
President Banda put the blame squarely at the doorstep of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its leader, Arthur Peter Mutharika. If Banda is right, the DPP leader has the violent instincts of his older brother, former president Bingu wa Mutharika, and is unfit to be president in a democratic Malawi.
Where there is violence there can be no free elections.
Violence and coercion have been the DPP’s modus operandi since the older Mutharika embarked on an eight-year dictatorship in 2004. Throughout Bingu’s reign of terror his brother, Peter, was his accomplice – first as the President’s closest and most-trusted advisor and, later – in addition, as a cabinet minister. APM, as some call him, thus shares the blame for the state of constant crises that marked his brother’s presidency. It was a presidency which scarred Malawi deeply and the nation’s collective psyche is yet to fully recover.
Not too long ago, the DPP, under Bingu wa Mutharika, unleashed its violence on a Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) vehicle which was burnt down. Mutharika was unhappy with ZBS’s news coverage of his presidency.
Earlier he had publicly asked his supporters to deal with anyone who was his critic saying, “Don’t just stand around when your father is being attacked”. He unleashed his panga knife-wielding thugs to terrorise downtown Blantyre. Houses of his civil society critics were burned down and people associated with Joyce Banda, then Bingu’s vice president and constitutional successor to the presidency in the event of Bingu’s death or incapacitation, were often beaten up, sometimes in publicly!
Bingu’s thugs killed Robert Chasowa, a university activist, and, of course, he ordered the cold-blooded murder of 20 demonstrators about four years ago. The DPP has violence in its DNA.
APM not presidential timber
APM was Foreign Minister when Malawi sullied relations with the IMF, Great Britain, other bilateral donors and neighbours, exacerbating the fiscal position of the Malawi Government and suffocating the economy. Peter was Chief Legal Advisor to his older brother, and later the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as his brother flouted the Constitution to create the first tsunami wave of Section 65 turncoats.
APM was Minister of Education when his older brother sparked a needless ‘academic freedom’ crisis at the University of Malawi, paralysing the institution for eight months. He was there as Bingu restarted the arbitrary detention of opposition politicians, recalcitrant vice presidents, party dissidents, consumer rights advocates, journalists, clergy and other civil society leaders.
Bingu’s governance and human rights record reached low points reminiscent of the days of one-party dictatorship under Kamuzu Banda and Banda’s own Nazi-style MCP regime (1964-1994).
APM was with Bingu as Bingu’s government embarrassed Malawians at home and abroad by attempting to introduce an anti-pollution law that banned flatulence in public making Malawi an international butt of jokes.
But there is more. There were the arbitrary (but clearly politically-motivated) arrests of John Kapito, Ralph Kasambara and Atupele. There was the arrest of Rev. Nyondo and that on May 13, 2008, of Kennedy Makwangwala, John Chikakwiya, Joseph Aironi, Matthews Masoapyola and Joseph Chimbayo and, later, of Bakili Muluzi, Brig. Marcel Chirwa, Brig. Cosgrove Mituka, and Brig Juvenalis Mtende.
They were subsequently charged with Treason, a case which has gone nowhere. APM also ought to explain how Cassim Chilumpha, then vice president of the Republic of Malawi, was arrested on April, 28, 2006, and charged with treason. This case, too, has since stagnated in the courts.
APM should say how it was that Immigration deported from Malawi a Mr. Jumani Kamuzu Banda, a fellow Malawian born in Malawi to Malawian parents. The moment he started making political noises, particularly after he went to Mutharika’s Area 47 home and ranted about challenging him for the presidency, Jumani was deported to Sweden.
As a consequence of all the foregoing and more, Arthur Peter Mutharika does not inspire the confidence to be a desirable president of the Republic of Malawi. He and his fascist-oriented party, the DPP, need to be confined to the dustbin of history.
*Ambuje Che Tom Likambale is a Malawian writer and political commentator from Balaka