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Too much anger in the air

With George Kasakula:

Another bad 10 days for national healing are past us as DPP got busy in tit-for-tat demonstrations in the same manner that those that are against the status quo announced a fresh round of protests to force Jane Ansah out of Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec).

For the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the idea was to flex political muscles and show everyone who cares to see who is in charge of the country.

And so they went to work. It started with pro- Ansah demonstrations when Gender Minister Mary Navicha and activist Seodi White led women in support of the Mec chairperson and tagged calls for her resignation as gender-based.

Then two days later, the DPP itself painted Blantyre blue by organising what they called a victory parade in the city that ended up at Sanjika Palace, where President Peter Mutharika lambasted the opposition, telling them in the face that they will never rule this.

The President also said he would crush the demonstrators and ensure that those that have been staging violent protests in dispute of the May 21 electoral results are completely annihilated—strong words you might say.

Other key developments within the past 10 days were the arrest of Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembeleka, who were only saved by bail three days after being charged of so many things that include forgery, fraud and operating a non-governmental organisation without registration.

Then a religious leader, Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre Archdiocese, weighed in, bemoaning the state that Malawi has become which is consumed with so much anger that he surmised the country is no longer the Warm Heart of Africa but the Hot Heart of Africa for violence that has engulfed it due to the demos.

And wrapping it up was vice-president for the DPP in the South Kondwani Nankhumwa, who offered an olive branch to the opposition asking former presidents Bakili Muluzi and Joyce Banda to mediate to end the impasse.

When you see what is obtaining in the country now, the inescapable conclusion is that we are slowly descending into an abyss.

There is just too much anger spreading around manifested in the demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, arbitrary arrests and tough talk that does not take into consideration the laws of this country, which allow free speech and political dissent.

It is understandable for the DPP and the President to be charged and organising counter-demos as they are in a tight corner and not sure whether they will do the five years as the Constitution says due to the court case raging in Lilongwe and starting in earnest on July 29.

But the DPP and the President should know that they are the ones governing and their interest should be to lower the present political temperature in the name of unity and nation building and not to be part of the problem.

Certainly, the DPP followers have a right to go to the streets and show support for their leaders but they should not overdo things and play it rough as if they and they, only, owned this country. We all do.

It is this too much anger around that is responsible for the current situation.

As I write this, you can ask any business captain and they will tell you that the graphs have started misbehaving and they are busy scratching their heads to find ways of how to put them back on track.

Look at how the kwacha is losing value on daily basis and something is causing it.

This anger will get us nowhere.

Even in the speeches the President is making, it is clear that he is an angry man ready to crush others when it is his responsibility to protect us all as well as project calmness even under immense pressure.

Look, when everything is said and done, we are all Malawians from Nsanje to Chitipa and Nkhotakota to Mchinji and none is superior or more Malawian than the other, whether they are on the government side or opposition.

The anger in abundance has inevitably led to tit-for-tat, especially on the government side as manifested in questionable arrests such as those of Trapence and Sembeleka.

If, for argument’s sake, the two committed a crime, did it have to wait for them to be in Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and organising constitutionally guaranteed demonstrations before Police could arrest them, especially when the owners of the money they are alleged to have misappropriated say they did not complain to anyone?

Yet this is the habit that our politicians have perfected – I mean using the Police power to silence dissenting voices – and it runs across all governments, past and present.

This boils down to failure to appreciate political dissent and lack of acceptance despite that, in 1993, Malawians decided that the country should adopt plural politics.

The agreement then was not that those that do not agree with the status quo will be tagged enemies and prey for arrests when they organise protests.

Rather, the deal we signed in 1993 was that we would all be equal before the law.

Meanwhile, as our leaders display unbridled anger and are at each other’s throat backing demos and counter-demos and digging in into their positions, Malawi is burning, literally, over elections-related protests.

There is no sign of this abating any time as we march towards self-annihilation.

The HRDC has announced a fresh round of demos every Tuesday and Friday to force Ansah to resign for flunking the management of the May 21 elections. There is deathly silence from her.

The anger is also boiling hot among the majority of the population (62 percent) who did not vote for the President and feel left out in the running of this country as the winner-takes-all mentality gets entrenched in those who were declared winners.

The court case raging in Lilongwe as Malawi Congress Party and UTM are challenging the President’s win, citing massive irregularities, is just an icing on the cake.

But Malawi needs fixing and is still at crossroads. This can only happen if we lowered the temperature.

Nankhumwa’s call for mediation should be taken seriously and be acted upon in the name of nation building and unity.

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