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Lazarus Chakwera accuses DPP of arson

by Rebecca Chimjeka

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera has accused Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of masterminding the petrol-bombing of the house and property belonging to Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Timothy Mtambo Thursday.

In an exclusive interview with Malawi News Thursday, the main opposition party leader also alleged that the DPP government is behind all the arson attacks currently happening.

But Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani has refuted the allegations by the MCP leader.

Botomani said the press statement that his ministry released Thursday night indicates that government, through its relevant agencies, is investigating the barbaric acts to apprehend the culprits.

It is not true and it is extremely sad that the MCP president is making these serious allegations against government, especially in the absence of evidence,” he said.

He said, once the culprits have been found, they will be dealt with in accordance to the law.

Chakwera said, even during the ongoing demonstrations, government is sponsoring people to destroy people’s property to score a point that the protests are not peaceful.

“I condemn this kind of behaviour of destroying people’s property or seeking to destroy their lives, this is barbaric type of behaviour that is associated with especially insurgents of the Democratic Progressive Party government,” he said.

The MCP leader said he called Mtambo and consoled him.

According to Chakwera, the treatment that government is showing to its citizens cannot succeed because the spirit of Malawians would rise above such malpractices.

While the MCP president has asked the police to investigate the incident, HRDC Vice-Chairperson Gift Trapence said in an interview Friday that by close of business of yesterday, police should apprehend the culprits.

Amnesty International (AI) issued a statement Thursday titled ‘Malawi: Human rights defender survives petrol-bomb attack, car burned to ashes’ where Muleya Mwananyanda, AI Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa described the act as “cowardly and malicious”.

He said the torching of Mtambo’s property is a clear act of intimidation designed to deter him from carrying out his human rights work.

“Timothy and his family narrowly escaped harm after three petrol bombs were thrown into his compound. One hit and torched his car while the second was thrown at the gate and the last narrowly missed his house,” said Mwananyanda in the statement.

He said there must be no stone left unturned in pursuit of those who are behind this attack.

“The authorities must launch a prompt, impartial and effective investigation and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials,” he said.

Last week, unknown thugs, suspected to be DPP Cadets, burned offices belonging to MCP Vice- President Sidik Mia at his Cold Storage Company in Blantyre.

Last month, unidentified gang petrol-bombed MCP regional offices in the South.

In late August last year, HRDC offices were torched by unknown thugs who also injured a security guard in Lilongwe.

Malawi held tripartite elections on May 21 this year but the polls produced contested results that have thrust the country into turmoil.

HRDC and other groups have called on the authorities to account for the controversial way in which the elections were conducted.

The human rights defenders have also been mobilising citizens to hold protest marches, among other reasons, to press for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over fraudulent elections.

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