Malawi Police teargas DPP supporters: Peter Mutharika takes whistle stop to Zomba

Business almost came to a standstill at around 1:30 pm in Zomba City when hundreds of Democratic People’s Party (DPP) supporters lined-up in the streets to welcome their interim leader Professor Peter Mutharika who was on a whistle-stop tour from Blantyre to Balaka on Monday.

Zomba Central parliamentarian Yunus Mussa led the supporters into chanting Peter’s name as they trooped to the venue of the mass rally at Mponda Primary School ground.

By this time he had joined Mutharika in a DPP vehicle as onlookers watched with interest.

Speaking during the brief rally, Mutharika  who has been charged with treason alongside other DPP officials  and former top civil servants, promised to bring development which his late brother  Bingu wa Mutharika  left when he gets elected as president in 2014.

Political season:Peter Mutharika on whistle stop in Zomba

Political season:Peter Mutharika on whistle stop in Zomba

“If you mandate me as your president during next month’s Convention, I will bring back the four-lane highway as documented on the Zomba-Blantyre Road,” he said.

“I will also ensure that free ARV’s  (Anti-retroviral life prolonging treatment for HIV/AIDS) . are available in all recommended places. Among other things, we have to remain unity and keep the party strong for us to achieve our goals,” he told the gathering in Zomba.

Wearing a DPP-branded sun hat and his traditional sunglasses, Mutharika spoke from an open pickup truck.

Mussa rips PP govt.

Earlier on, Mussa said the Joyce Banda government is playing with people’s lives at the time when maize is not available in almost all Admarc Depots across the country.

“You do not play with lives of the people when it comes to issues of food scarcity. This time people are now eating roasted maize, pumpkins, and other things and no-one can fool them with free maize distribution.

“They have endured a lot by sleeping at Admarc Depots looking for maize and time for harvesting has come,” said Mussa.

Teargas

In the morning, police fired teargas to disperse DPP supporters who converged at Songani Trading Centre in Zomba to welcome Professor Mutharika.

The supporters resisted to being restricted to the venue of the rally at Songani ground as the police prevented them from blocking the main road at the trading centre.

Teargas was fired in the process as the supporters scampered for safety at nearby buildings.

Efforts to talk to the police proved futile but Edward Kandidziwa, who is Yunus Mussa’s personal assistant, bemoaned the behavior of the police which he described as provocative.

“This is not what we agreed with the police. Why teargas the supporters as if they were violent? This is not good for our democracy and should not be entertained,” he said.

Paper’s reminder

DPP has again said it will write a ”letter to the international community and local human rights organisations for action of police to “disrupt” its meetings, saying it’s a violation of  a right to freedom of expression.

But Malawi’s flagship newspaper, The Nation recently reminded DPP that when it was a ruling party and commanded a majority in Parliament, they were busy changing or twisting some laws, including those related to freedom of assembly and expression.

The paper pointed out that on the freedom of assembly, which simply required those seeking to hold meetings to notify a district commissioner (DC), DPP argued that those intending to hold meetings required not only to notify the DC’s office, but also to seek permission.

Some planned political meetings by opposition parties then, were forcefully broken up on that basis whereas DPP moved on with its meetings freely.

The late Bingu wa Mutharika went as far as ordering that people seeking permission to demonstrate should deposit K2 million (about $5 555) to cover for any possible damage to property. It was never effected.

On the freedom of expression, DPP, using its majority in Parliament, amended Section 46 of the Penal Code, effectively empowering a Minister of Information to ban a publication, local or international, if in the minister’s opinion such publications were not in the interest of the public. Media houses risked simply being shut down based on this draconian law which the Joyce Banda administration has since repealed.

Newspaper vendors also claimed that DPP operatives harassed them when selling newspapers that were deemed offensive to the regime.

Peter Mutharika and Yunus Mussa in Zomba

Peter Mutharika and Yunus Mussa in Zomba

DPP supporters in Zomba welcoming Peter Mutharika

DPP supporters in Zomba welcoming Peter Mutharika

Peter Mutharika on whistle stop in Zomba

Peter Mutharika on whistle stop in Zomba

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