Malawi opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has accused the governing People’s Party (PP) of abusing the Police service into muzzling freedom of speech and stifling democracy by stopping whistle-stop meetings of its interim President Peter Mutharika.
On Monday Police stopped DPP from holding whistle-stop rallies from Lilongwe to Kasungu, apparently because they collided with the arrival of President Joyce Banda from the US through Kamuzu International Airport (KIA).
The order comes two weeks after police again stopped Mutharika’s whistle-stop tour from Lilongwe to Blantyre soon after he was granted bail in his alleged treason case.
Apart from the stopped Lilongwe-Blantyre whistle stop-tour, Mutharika was also a week ago stopped from having a rally in Zomba.
DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi condemned the development as an abuse of the Police.
“This is unfortunate because I don’t think the Police should be used as instruments of suppression, they must be instruments of law and order,” Dausi said.
“We have concerns that freedom of expression is being stifled,” he added.
Police national spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo said the meetings that are cancelled are done on “security reasons” but she could not elaborate.
Outspoken political activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire has also spoken against police action in stopping rallies.
“The general opinion in Malawi is that the police are used by government officials as a machinery to intimidate and muzzle free speech and the freedom of assembly which shows large crowds of DPP die hard following their leader on his whistle stop tour,” pointed out Mkandawire.
He said “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the Malawians; posterity as well as the existing generation; the truth about Peoples Party’s failure to make an impact and establish itself as a serious contender for 2014 elections.”
Malawi holds its general elections next year in May where it will elect a President, Members of Parliament and Councilors in a first ever three-tier polls.