CSO faults ban on flags in Mzuzu

A Mzuzu-based civil society organization Youth and Society (YAS) says the recent decision of electoral stakeholders under the Mzuzu City MultiParty Liaison Committee (MPLC) to ban flying of flags and displaying of other campaign material in markets across Mzuzu will not stop the growing political intolerance among some political parties in Mzuzu.

A billboard depicting President Arthur Peter Mutharika’s hallmark developments which belonged to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was vandalized and some DPP flags removed from the Mzuzu’s Shoprite roundabout and the adjacent Carpark Market last Wednesday by suspected supporters of the opposition United Transformation Movement (UTM).

Kajoloweka: Ban will not reduce tension

The incident happened after suspected DPP cadets removed UTM flags from the Shoprite roundabout.

Speaking in a telephone interview in Mzuzu on Wednesday, YAS Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka said that electoral stakeholders should focus on promoting tolerance rather than issuing unilateral bans on campaign materials.

“Violence leading to Elections is uncalled for and that the authorities entrusted with the enforcement of the Law are supposed to be called in to do their job. We don’t believe that the banning of political flags is a solution because people must be allowed to celebrate their party by their identification.

“What we must intricate in our people is a spirit of co-existence. We don’t believe that banning of flags will stop the political intolerance, at the same time we must be able to celebrate our democracy by allowing coexistence without violence,” Kajoloweka said.

The activist has also asked authorities to bring the perpetrators of the violence to book without limiting the rights of other political players to exercise their political freedoms.

Said Kajoloweka: “My other call to the stakeholders is that when we see such things instead of issuing unilateral sanctions, why don’t we directly engage those that are involved in the violence other than closing the political space for people to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms including openly identifying with their political parties?”

The Activist has further cautioned political party leaders to ensure that their members act peacefully as Election’s Day approaches.

“My other caution to political parties as we move towards the 21st May is that the leaders of political parties have a responsibility to call their members to peace, no one should claim victory using violence in these elections,” Kajoloweka said.

Following a meeting of the MultiParty Liaison Committee last week Wednesday, Chairperson of the MPLC Dr. Macloud Kadam’manja who is also Chief Executive Officer for the Mzuzu City Council issued a letter advising all district chairpersons of political parties and independent candidates in Mzuzu City to stop flying political party flags in markets in Mzuzu City.

Reads the letter dated April 18, 2019 which was signed by Kadam’manja: “Considering the increase in number of conflicts arising from scramble for space to hang the flags, the multiparty liaison committee unanimously agreed that with immediate effect, no party or candidate should be allowed to fly flags in markets in Mzuzu City.

Similarly, political parties or individuals were banned from planting flags in the roundabouts except on special occasions upon obtaining authority from Mzuzu City Council.”

The MPLCs are groupings of electoral stakeholders which were formed by the Malawi Electoral Commission in 2002 to assist in resolving inter-party conflicts and to promote ethical conduct of political parties in Malawi before, during and after elections. The Mzuzu City MPLC is comprised of representatives of all registered political parties, the Police, MEC officials and the civil society organizations, among others who, through the Committee, carry the mandate of mitigating and resolving electoral conflicts.

Political tension is rising with less than a month to go before Malawi goes to the polls on May 21.

President Professor Peter Mutharika is being challenged by Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima and the Country’s Leader of Opposition, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera among other political giants in the Country.