Address political violence too
It is said that alone, a person is very honest but at the approach of another, pretence begins. This aptly describes how we, as Malawians, run our affairs.
Just some two weeks ago, some compatriots took to the streets in Lilongwe City denouncing all forms of violence, especially that hinging on gender. Unfortunately, most of us only remember the controversial message on one of the placards which advocated more powers for a woman over her body.
The carrier of the placard was roundly condemned for her message which was generally viewed as insensitive. But she maintained that she would carry it again if given an opportunity. It would be interesting to know if at all she would be able to stand in the middle of her home village and share the same message with her people.
However, those who condemned her are able to tolerate other apparently demeaning messages. What with ubiquitous billboards screaming that we have stopped open defecation because we have been told to do so. If you do not find such messages rudimentary, try putting them in Chichewa.
Then a week later, the clergy teamed up with some rights activists to commemorate the International Day of Peace. But we all know that peace is not the absence of war only. There are a lot of subtle ways in which we, as a society, are denying others a right to peace.
Take the issue of some National Registration Bureau employees who attempted to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly but ended up being arrested by the police. Were the police officers really preventing a commission of crime or they were just pretending as the arrest may have been a case of malfeasance?
As if that was not bad enough for our democracy, we saw former member of Parliament for Chikwawa Central, Salim Bagus, being fired from the board of Air Cargo Malawi Limited. Bagus’ crime was that he defected from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP). Yes, we have sympathised with Bagus while condemning the DPP administration for this development. Should we really say that Bagus—who has jumped from the United Democratic Front to the People’s Party, DPP and then to the MCP — was oblivious to the sad fact that the strange type of democracy we practice gives full rights to the winner to act as they wish? Is the DPP administration right to use appointments into public bodies for political appeasement?
Perhaps the most unfortunate incident, by magnitude, is the wave of violence that constituents in Nsanje Lalanje suffered within the week. The DPP is accused of harassing MCP supporters ahead of a by-election. Unbelievably, the DPP blame the violence on the MCP. This beats the imagination as to how the MCP would score political points by beating up its own supporters, weeks before the polls.
The fact that the police have failed to take action despite receiving complaints over the violence lends credence to the suspicion that the violence is the work of DPP Cadets ferried from Blantyre City townships to scare the voters from supporting the MCP.
The Nsanje Lalanje poll is a political thermometer to gauge temperatures ahead of the 2019 tripartite elections. The DPP has been enjoying massive support in the Lower Shire. But, of late, a sleeping political gladiator, Sidik Mia, has joined the MCP, taking with him the likes of Bagus. Mia, one of the founders of the DPP, is proving to be quite a handful for the DPP. The DPP has failed to break MCP’s dominance in earlier by-elections in Mchinji and Lilongwe. And for Lilongwe, the MCP snatched a ward from the DPP, enabling the opposition party to grab the mayoral position from the DPP’s jaws. The MCP went ahead to convert Lilongwe deputy mayor to its stable from the DPP. The DPP is still raging with fury over this “insolence” by its bitter rival.
As a society, we are so obsessed with trappings of power. Unless we stop viewing leadership through the lens of dominion and greed, taking to the streets will not stop any form of violence. Politics should be a relay race and no one should be allowed to cling to the baton
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