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Tension as CSO, DPP demos clash

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Drama ensued Tuesday during a march organised by civil society organisations (CSOs) in Rumphi when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters staged a counter demonstration. The DPP march ended up at the district hospital where the ruling party supporters donated maize and beans worth K800,000.

By 09.20am, civil society groups and residents from the district started their march from Bumba Primary School to the District Commissioner (DC’s) office past Rumphi Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) Depot where DPP supporters had gathered to wait for a senior party member, Charles Mhango, who represented Information Minister Jappie Mhango.

As they passed by the DPP supporters, the CSOs demonstrators, who were dressed in black, chanted songs against President Peter Mutharika, while DPP women and youth cadets also sang songs of retribution, describing the CSOs as useless.

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The stand-off got out of hand for the few police officers present at the event who failed to contain the situation and left the two camps to outwit each other.

After presenting their petition to the DC, chairperson of the organising committee for the CSOs’ march, Eunice Banda, made a brief statement in which she gave Mutharika a two-week ultimatum to start providing meals for patients at Rumphi District Hospital.

“Rumphi District Hospital kitchen was closed on 13th October 2015 and patients are not being provided with food. Staff were sent on holiday. We see some patients and guardians begging for food in town.

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“The cold room at the mortuary is down. The hospital has only one ambulance that caters for a population of 208, 618 people. What is wrong with us residents of Rumphi? Are we less Malawian?

“The President came here [when he was minister of Education] and laid a foundation stone for a teachers’ training college (TTC) in 2011 during a by-election campaign, but up to now nothing is happening while Chiradzulu and Mchinji TTCs [were constructed]. Why [not] us from Rumphi?” said Banda.

She added: “We want the President to respond within 14 days to these immediate issues of food and cold room at the hospital. On the TTC construction and lack of ambulance at the hospital, he should respond within 30 days. [If he fails] to do that, you will see us on the street again.”

Barely 10 minutes after the CSO marchers presented their petition to the DC, Charles Mhango, Regional Governor for the North, Kenneth Sanga, and other DPP members on bicycle taxis made their way to the hospital while singing praises for Mutharika and Jappie Mhango.

Speaking to The Daily Times after the donation, Charles Mhango condemned the CSOs for rushing to demonstrate instead of finding ways to bail the hospital out of the food problem. He said their donation was in solidarity with the patients as Rumphi citizens and not necessarily as DPP supporters.

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