Chaos in Mulanje as DPP cancels primary elections’ voting

Malawi’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials were forced to cancel their primary elections for Mulanje South Constituency on Thursday following nasty scenes that swamped Mulanje District Park, the event’s venue.

Three candidates- comedian Bon Kalindo aka Winiko, businessman a Mr Chitsulo and a Mr. Mkwanda- are competing to represent the former ruling party in next year’s first-ever tripartite elections.

The party failed to conduct the polls following chaotic scenes that erupted after followers of two main contenders (Winiko and Chitsulo) started jeering, taunting, and shouting at the presiding team for what they described as “inhuman treatment”.

The crowd of party followers protested against the prolonged delays in starting to vote after being kept on the queue for hours as the presiding team, led by the party’s senior National Governing Council (NGC) member and Phalombe North Constituency Parliamentarian, Anna Kachikho, verified names of voters from 181 centers of the constituency.

Kalindo (in bright blue shirt) arriving at the venue on his convoy- Photo by Lucky Mkandawire

Uniformed and plain clothed armed police officers quickly stepped in to whisk away the presiding team, which also included Ben Bonongwe, the DPP legislature for Mulanje South East, in the heat of the stocking up friction.

The angry multitude was baying for Kachikho’s blood claiming she had wasted their time by cancelling the voting process.

The aspiring candidates started ferrying their supporters in tracks to the venue as early as 8.00am while hundreds others footed. The people waited until around 5.00pm when it was confirmed that the elections would not take place.

But Nyasa Times investigations revealed that the fracas was initiated by students from Robert Private School who were ferried to the venue by one of the contestants, Chitsulo, to boost up his morale.

Chitsulo owns the private school and on this day he closed his school and declared a holiday for the students to travel to the primary elections venue and amplify his morale.

Majority of the students spent their time jiving while scores of boys and girls kept on sucking the cheap liquor sachets and going round the ground.

But in an interview with Nyasa Times, Kachikho blamed the aspiring candidates for not educating their followers about the voting process.

Only 15 people from 181 centers of the constituency were eligible to vote. However, several rowdy followers particularly belonging to the two main aspirants wanted to push their way and vote too thereby creating an intimidating atmosphere.

“I would want the aspirants to take the trouble to enlighten their followers on the voting procedures and who is supposed to vote. This is a DPP family affair and there is no point to deliberately create such confusion.

 

“I know campaign is expensive, everyone wants to win at the end of the day but let us not forget the fact that above everything else we are one family and we eat from the same plate so it is important to ferry to the venue only those people who are eligible to vote and not every Jim and Jack just to create chaos,” she bemoaned.

Kachikho could, however, not indicate when the party would re-conduct the primaries for the constituency.

“I will report back to the authorities who sent me here about what has happened and then the secretariat will have to arrange another day and possibly also another venue,” she said.

However, the presiding officer hinted that she would love the elections to be conducted elsewhere and not at the same venue.

“Another venue could be appropriate because here it was free for all, everybody wanted to vote without respecting the names that were identified in the centers to vote. That was why things became chaotic.

“I would love to have the elections preferably in a hall so that only those who qualify to vote are given access other than every person,” said Kachikho.

DPP Director of Elections, Kondwani Nankhumwa, told Nyasa Times in a separate interview, he was yet to get a report from the elections’ presiding officer but bemoaned the development urging aspirants to ensure that they guard their followers.

“At the moment I can’t say about the new date because I am yet to get an official report from the person we entrusted to conduct the elections. The party has rules and regulations governing the elections as such once we get that report [from Kachikho] we will then agree when to have fresh primary elections for the constituency,” Nankhumwa said in a telephone interview soon after the foiled elections.

The hotly-contested Mulanje South Constituency, a DPP stronghold, is currently under former minister and People’s Party (PP) senior official Ritchie Muheya, who was elected on a DPP ticket in 2009 but defected to PP after Joyce Banda took over government.

Whoever wins the DPP primaries will have a stiff competition from two other main contenders, the incumbent ( Ritchi Muheya of ruling PP) as well as youthful Brian Magoya of the United Democratic Front (UDF).

Kachikho (center) and Bonongwe (left) arriving at the venue in the company of unknown officials- Photo by Lucky Mkandawire

The students arriving at Mulanje District Park- Photo by Lucky Mkandawire

Hundreds of purported DPP followers that gathered at Mulanje District Park for the primary elections- Photo by Lucky Mkandawire

Kalindo (left), Mkwanda (centre) and Chitsulo sharing lighter moments at a restaurant as they waited for the elections- Photo by Lucky Mkandawire.

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