By Jameson Chauluka, Audrey Kapalamula & Samuel Kalimira:
Violence reared its ugly head in the Northern Region while Malawi Defence Force (MDF) officers blocked protesters from presenting a petition at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe during the third round of nationwide anti-Justice Jane Ansah demonstrations.
The MDF officers blocked Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) officials from delivering their petition 100 metres away from the palace, forcing the organisers to present it to Presidential Adviser on Civil Society Organisations, Mabvuto Bamusi, at Chinese Embassy, some 800 kilometres from the State House
HRDC Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, accused the police of misleading MDF regarding the protests.
“We have marched peacefully but they wanted to feed MDF lies. We will not stop until Ansah [Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson] resigns. Nobody should threaten us,” he said
Bamusi assured HRDC that the petition would be delivered to President Peter Mutharika.
“I will deliver it to the President who will read your demands and see the way forward. We believe in peace and let us maintain the peace,” he said.
Before presenting their petition, MDF armored motor vehicles and armed officers blocked the protesters, forcing Mtambo and other HRDC officials to engage MDF officer Richard Chagonapanja in discussions.
MDF officers eventually allowed the group to proceed. Earlier, the protesters chased all police officers who were deployed to provide security. Some protesters looted shops around City Centre.
In Blantyre, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera joined the demonstrations after visiting the party’s Southern Region headquarters, which were torched on Sunday evening.
MCP and UTM are backing the demonstrations which HRDC is championing to push for Ansah’s resignation for allegedly mismanaging May 21 Tripartite Elections results.
Chakwera, who took part in the demonstrations in Blantyre for the first time alongside his deputy Sidik Mia and UTM vice-president Michael Usi, urged thousands not to relent on their pursuit for justice, saying their votes were not counted fairly.
“We will fight on for justice to prevail in the country but peacefully as we have done today. Malawians have to be governed by a government which they chose and not what few others chose for them. We want to create a Malawi which everyone can call home,” Chakwera said.
Although Blantyre City Council (BCC) instructed the protesters to march from Kamuzu Upper stadium to Civic Offices to present their petition, the protesters proceeded through Masauko Chimbere Highway to the Central Business District and back.
The protesters, however, did not present their petition to the council, saying they wanted BCC Chief Executive Officer, Alfred Chanza, to receive the petition in person.
HRDC Second Vice- Chairperson, Henderson Mhango, announced that the next demonstrations, scheduled for Tuesday, would start from Limbe to Sanjika Palace.
In Mzuzu, the protesters were disrupted when they were passing through Mzuzu Police Station, as police officers started throwing teargas canisters at them and, in turn, the people started pelting stones at the law enforcers.
In the pandemonium that ensued, some protesters set ablaze Democratic Progressive Party regional offices located at Masasa Township, while others torched Mzilawaingwe Admarc, Chiputula Police and Department of Health offices of Mzuzu City Council.
One of the human rights defenders Moses Mkandawire, who led the protest in Mzuzu, described the action of the police as unprofessional.
“Let the honourable lady [Ansah] resign. People should not suffer because of her. She should have a sense of honour and listen to Malawians,” Mkandawire said.
In Karonga, protestors closed Songwe-Karonga Road.
In the old capital, Zomba City Council denied HRDC permission to hold the protests but the coalition, through lawyer Zwelithini Chipembere of Ritz Attorney, applied for an injunction which High Court Judge Zione Ntaba granted restraining council from stopping the demonstration.—Additional reporting by Jarson Malowa
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