By Jameson Chauluka and Serah Chilora:
What had started out as a normal whistle-stop campaign tour of Mulanje and Phalombe districts by Tonse Alliance officials, led the alliance’s running mate and State Vice President Saulos Chilima, turned into a nightmare after the delegation’s convoy was attacked yesterday by people suspected to be Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters.
While this was happening, a similar picture emerged in Liwonde where ICT expert in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) camp, Daud Suleiman and his entourage, were also targeted by suspected opponents.
Chilima’s convoy was stoned in Mulanje where he was lobbying for votes for Tonse Alliance, made up of his UTM and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as well as seven other parties, ahead of the fresh presidential election.
Chilima who is running mate to MCP president Lazarus Chakwera in the alliance, has been up and about in the Southern Region wooing people to vote for their alliance.
His convoy was attacked after he had already addressed people at Namtombozi Trading Centre in Mulanje Bale, Mulanje Mission, Muloza Border and Malunda in Mulanje Limbuli Constituency.
Usually, players in the political field tend to categorise Malawi’s politics along regional lines, which sees certain regions being branded as strongholds of certain parties.
In this regard, it was noted that some spots where the convoy passed through had supporters of the ruling DPP, who were booing Chilima’s convoy while other spots gave him the support he needed.
Upon arrival at Gawani, which was the last stop in Mulanje before the entourage was expected to go into Phalombe, people who had lined up along the sides of the road started pelting stones at the convoy whilst chanting pro DPP songs.
“Ife ndi ana a dadi kuno ndi kwa DPP… musadzabweleso kuno,” they sang.
Several vehicles, including a minibus which carried the media personnel, were targeted and had some of its glasses shattered in the process.
The driver of the bus was seriously injured while some of the journalists sustained minor injuries.
Chilima, who made a brief appearance from his vehicle after the incident, seemed not to have been shaken even after the attack.
As though that was not enough, after fleeing the scene at Gawani, the convoy was attacked again at Chiringa in Phalombe District.
Commenting on the allegations leveled against the DPP, the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said DPP was not involved in any of the incidences, arguing his party is a peace loving one.
“DPP is very peaceful. We are worried with the way the media is carrying out the story, it is as though they have evidence that it is the DPP doing that. It is not DPP, we are a peace loving party and we tolerate different views of others so to tell you the truth; it not us,” he said.
Southern Region Police Spokesperson Ramsey Mshani said he could not comment on the matter and referred us to the National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera who did not pick up our calls.
UTM’s spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga described the situation as worrisome and was quick to say the attackers were targeting journalists just to instill fear in them.
“The Vice President was not stoned; these people were targeting the journalists who were on the convoy. They want to cause terror in journalists so that they do not give live updates may be. We are not going to retaliate; we know them but we are urging our supporters not to retaliate. We will go anywhere we want we are in a democratic country,” he said.
Speaking earlier on the campaign trail, Chilima spoke vehemently against the tendency of some leaders who he claims are dividing the country on the tribal, regional and religious lines.
Chilima warned that tribal, religious and regional conflicts destroy societies, giving an example of Rwanda.
Meanwhile a similar incident happened in Liwonde where vocal MCP IT specialist Daud Suleiman was ‘stoned’ as he was about to address people.
MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka confirmed of the development but said nobody sustained injuries.
Chancellor College political analyst Mustapha Hussein condemned the incident and called on all stakeholders to desist from condoning political violence, arguing it defeats the purpose of a free and fair election.
Hussein said in a democracy, there are no go zones and as such, every party should be given the chance to campaign anywhere.
“We need peace in the country that is my first thought. Because if the elections are to be free and fair the campaign should be conducted in a peaceful environment. The violence that took place should be strongly condemned firstly by government and everyone else who is a patriot of Malawi.
The perpetrators should be arrested for the criminal act and that should be done very fast. The area is known some of the details are very clear. There is need for police to move in fast so that it should be a deterrent so that should not do the same,” he said.
Since the campaign period was launched on May 2, 2020 there have been disturbing scenes in some parts of the country where suspected political party loyalists have engaged in violence leading to loss of property and in extreme cases loss of lives.