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7 family members severely burnt

IN AGONY—An arson victim covered in bandages

CONCERNED—Chakwera and Chilima visit the victims

By Wezzie Gausi:

Seven members of a family—two parents and five children—are battling for their lives at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe after suffering various degrees of burns when UTM offices in Area 22 were torched in what is seen as a new wave of political violence ahead of the July 2 fresh presidential election.

Unknown assailants reportedly used motor vehicle tyres and petrol to bomb the offices with the seven inside. The incident, which is said to have happened around midnight, follows other attacks targeted at opposition political party supporters one of which left a vehicle belonging to UTM Eastern Region Director of Women Hasheeda Hussein severely burnt.

When we visited the place Tuesday morning, we found the building, which was also housing the family for free, badly burnt with black pillars of smoke still wafting from the burning tyres.

Everything that they had possessed was reportedly lost in the inferno. An eye witness, who is also a block leader for the area, Emily Jobe, told The Daily Times that the family tried to fight off the fire on their own as neighbour watched. “When we rushed to the scene, we saw people watching from afar. The police were called but they did not show up until this morning. They came to remove the burning tyres,” Jobe said.

Another eye witness said the family’s neighbour rushed the victims to the hospital where they were admitted in the Intensive Care and the High Dependency units.

The eyewitness further stated that three of the five children were unconscious when they were being taken to the hospital. Meanwhile, Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and his UTM counterpart Saulos Chilima—who visited the victims at the hospital—have condemned the “barbaric attacks” which they said are being perpetuated by people who are not comfortable with the forthcoming election.

“After seeing the state of the injuries, my heart bleeds. How could someone do a thing like that to fellow human beings? The whole family have sustained serious injuries,” Chakwera said. On his part, Chilima said: “We know this is to test our patience so that we can retaliate. No, we will not do that. Our plea remains that people should go and vote for our alliance as that is the only hope for change.

“The people who are doing all this will face the law one day. Justice will take its course. This country does not belong to one political party or a certain group of people.” The two leaders also donated some drugs which were needed to treat the wounds of the victims, among other things.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson Gift Trapence also described what happened to the Area 22 family as evil, backward and barbaric politics.

“What kind of politics is this of victimizing innocent people? You will see the police doing nothing. I am very angry,” Trapence charged. Political analysts recently warned that political violence is likely to get worse ahead of the court-ordered presidential poll. They indicated that governing parties have the tendency of unleashing terror on their opponents in an attempt to scare them away from the poll. When previously asked to comment on attacks on opposition political party supporters which were being blamed on Democratic Progressive Party, its spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said the police were better placed to speak on the matter.

On yesterday’s incident, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the security institution “strongly condemns the barbaric behaviour” and that they were investigating the attack.

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