Police in Zomba on Sunday clashed with members of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) after the police tried to stop the party’s rally saying President Peter Mutharika was expected to pass through a road near the venue.
The incident happened weeks after the Mangochi District Council forced MCP president Lazarus Chakwera to suspend his political rally in the district on grounds that it clashed with Mutharika’s whistle-stop tour.
On Sunday, a misunderstanding ensued between the police and MCP members ahead of MCP vice-president Sidik Mia’s rally at Chilanga Primary School in the district after uniformed law enforcers were deployed to the venue on instructions from the Zomba City Council that Mutharika was scheduled to pass through a nearby road.
“Initially we did not know the exact place but when we went there and discovered that it was about 12 kilometres away from the road [the State President was to use], we told them [MCP] to go ahead with their rally because it was not close to the said road,” said Zomba Police Officer-in-Charge for Benson Tawakali.
Speaking during the rally, Mia condemned the alleged abuse of State machinery by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which he claimed was aimed at narrowing the political space for opposition parties ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
“We received orders that our rally should be cancelled because the State President would be passing through when going to Monkey-Bay. But I am very happy that our supporters stood by us, braved the rains and attended this meeting despite the threats they received,” said Mia.
Commenting on the issue, University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri wondered whether authorities would really grant permission to a political party before analysing security arrangements pertaining to the President’s programme.
“Permission is granted by District Commissioner [DC] or Chief Executive Officer for that particular city. In this case, if the DC for Zomba gave MCP the go ahead then the police were in the wrong because it is not their responsibility to grant permission,” said Phiri.
During the meeting, Mia officially opened a safe-water kiosk which he personally donated, saying MCP wants to see Malawians get what they deserve, including better education and health facilities as well as access to finances to create their own businesses.
In November this year, MCP was denied permission by Mangochi District Council to hold a whistle stop tour followed by a rally at Mbwadzulu Primary School ground on December 1.
The council said Mutharika was to conduct a whistle stop tour at the same time at Monkey Bay in the same district on his way to Chikoko Bay from Zomba where he presided over a DPP fundraising luncheon at Zomba State House.
After initially refusing, the MCP shifted the rally to December 2.