By Serah Makondetsa and Rebecca Chimjeka:
Former president Joyce Banda who is also People’s Party (PP) leader has condemned the rising cases of political violence targeting opposition parties in the country ahead of the May 21st Tripartite Elections.
And the United Nations (UN) has also voiced out its concern over the development, piling more pressure on government to quickly address the problem.
Banda concurs with other political leaders and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on the recent attacks of UTM party followers by people suspected to be Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times on Thursday, Banda said it is disheartening to see the freedom which the first president of the country Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda fought for, going down the drain.
“Since 1964 when Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda became president of this country all Malawians know what he [Banda] stood for in as far as the rights of women are concerned.
In those days, even a husband would not beat up a wife. When I came in as minister of women and children, I championed the passing of the violence and domestic bill. This is 2019 and I sit here and I am completely paralysed to see how far the country has gotten in violence against women,” she said.
Banda said it is a shame that the country has disregarded policies and agendas of empowering women.
“I have been proud of my country all along when I was given a chance to talk in other countries about women empowerment, I used to stand tall and boast that, in my country, women are free and their rights are promoted. But today in my own country, women being stripped naked.
“What I believe is that the president of this country does not know that…because I believe any president would not want their legacy to be that their party was violent. Women are majority in this country and we bring the other half in the world and it is sad that anyone can begin to strip naked a woman,” she said.
During the week, Lazarus Chakwera, leader of opposition in Parliament and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) accused President Peter Mutharika who is also Commander-in-Chief, of losing his grip on the country’s affairs and the DPP perpetuating lawlessness.
Meanwhile, the United Nations, through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has also added its voice on the issue.
This has been outlined in a press briefing note that has been issued through spokesperson Rupert Colville at the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We are very concerned about an increase in political violence in Malawi, violence against women and attacks against persons with albinism, as Malawi heads towards elections in May 2019,” reads the note in part.
It adds that although Mutharika this past Wednesday condemned the political violence, including acts aimed at humiliating women in the political arena, the UN body’s concern is that so far no one has accounted for the mess.
The agency cites several Human Rights violations, including the recent arrest of member of Parliament, Bon Kalindo for insulting the President as well as for disorderly conduct who was later violently assaulted; Edward Govati, a supporter of Malawi Congress Party, who was savagely attacked in Blantyre by suspected Democratic Progressive Party cadets.
It further singled out the gruesome killing of Yasin Phiri, a 55-year-old man with albinism, in Nkhata Bay on 31 December 2018, who was repeatedly stabbed in front of his child, before being dragged outside his house, where both his arms were hacked off.
And just three days before the agency issued its statement, on 22 January, a one year -and eight months – baby with albinism was abducted from her home in Karonga and police investigations were still underway at the time of publication.
The UN has since called on the authorities to step up their efforts to protect persons with albinism, and to prosecute and punish alleged perpetrators.