UTM Party supporters attacked Malawi Congress Party (MCP) members on Friday night at a lodge in Karonga, police have confirmed.
The violence comes barely days after Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) supporters also complained to have been attacked by UTM Party supporters at Kasisi in the same constituency.
In an interview, MCP campaign team leader who is also deputy national director of elections Alfred Mwenifumbo said the attack occurred around 11pm at the lodging place for the campaign team, Lovemore Lodge.
“It is true that UTM party supporters ransacked the lodge last night where they brandished panga knives, smashed cars and injured some MCP officials in the process. Our last day campaign strategy which attracted about 12 thousand supporters at the Boma infuriated them and they resorted to intimidation and violence just to scare voters.
“During the day, they smashed our car with public address system and went away with a laptop and two microphones. All in all, we have reported the matter to police for action,” he said.
Karonga Police Officer In-Charge Tiyese Chiumbuzo confirmed the development in an interview, saying his office is on the ground investigating the matter.
He said: “Indeed some identified UTM Party supporters raided Lovemore Lodge and Pacific Lodge where they smashed four vehicles belonging to MCP and injured five people in the process. Our officers have intensified a manhunt to arrest the perpetrators”.
In an interview, UTM party national publicity secretary Frank Mwenifumbo condemned the incident, saying his party believes in peace and calm during and after voting period.
“We vehemently condemn the act of violence on the MCP officials and property that took place at Lovemore Lodge by the unknown assailants. UTM Party will continue to observe peace and calm during and after voting period,” Mwenifumbo said.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Karonga Diocese Desk Officer Louis Nkhata – whose office has been implementing a peaceful and coexistence program in this by-election through engagement meetings with political leaders, traditional and the clergy – has also condemned the fracas.
He said: “The incident is an enemy to democracy and has no room in the modern politics. Let politicians avoid use of the youth to cause havoc to opponents for their personal political gains”.
Malawi Elections Commission (MEC) Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mukumbwa described the incident as very disappointing, saying getting this after preaching peace through chiefs, clergy and politicians themselves is a big setback.
“I am very disappointed so to speak. After preaching peace in the Constituency I never expected such barbaric acts at last minute. I am hopeful that the police will work in accordance to the law to bring to book perpetrators and mete out stiff punishment to deter others from the same acts in future,” he said.
Mukumbwa has since assured all political stakeholders that MEC will go ahead with the by-elections as planned, saying if others thought use of violence will propel MEC to halt elections then they were wrong.
53, 000 voters are expected to vote in the constituency that fell vacant in February following the demise of James Kamwambi.