Editorial: No rallies for Malawi opposition parties?

The Malawi Government’s intention to continue stopping political rallies in the country, under whatever guise, cannot go unchallenged and should not be tolerated by any patriotic Malawian that cherishes democracy and the rule of law.

This intention is yet another display of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s lack of political tolerance and its worsening inability to subscribe to the rules of fair-play.

The various District Commissioners aiding and abetting of this sort of unbecoming behaviour smacks of favouritism and bias because we have never heard that that the ruling party’s rallies have been postponed due to a “volatile security situation” – whatever that means.

In fact, the DPP is holding rallies day in and day out; and it is at these rallies that President Mutharika makes pronouncements befitting only a Somali warlord and not a duly elected president. His cronies go a step further to extents that we cannot describe without sinking to the depths that they wallow in.

Atupele addressing crowds

The Dowa District Commissioner, a Mr James Manyetera when quizzed by the Daily Times why he blocked  a Peoples Party (PP) rally that was supposed to take place last Sunday at Mponela is reported to have said:

“I did not stop the rally but rather I requested the secretary general of the party to consider rescheduling the meeting to another date after I consulted some authorities.

“The situation was tense the whole week in Lilongwe which is just 56 kilometres away from Mponela, so we feared some people could easily travel from Lilongwe to cause havoc.”

Without necessary going into details of the charges levelled against Atupele Muluzi and hence risking being in contempt, we find the charge against Atupele Muluzi, in the least, ridiculous.

If refusal to accept a similar request – a request which obviously contravenes the right to freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Republican Constitution – is tantamount to “disobeying Lilongwe district commissioner’s order” then we are in big trouble.

Public rallies and demonstrations are constitutional rights which cannot be tampered with by the government, let alone a mere district commissioner or an overzealous police unit. This is exactly what Malawians voted against when they ushered in multi-party politics, complete with a new constitution in 1994.

Self-respecting District Commissioners, who are generally assumed to be more educated than our tear-gas happy policemen, ought to tread more carefully on these issues. Otherwise once the public starts viewing them as agents of oppression they will be looked at with the same contempt that people hold the DPP panga-wielding cadets.

And if the four years spent at Chilunga campus plus a couple of years in the United Kingdom pursuing a masters was worth its’ while, then Mr Manyetera and company would not want that.

If anything should “a volatile security situation” arise at all the duty of the District Commissioner should be to instruct the police to provide security that will facilitate peaceful assembly of any political party regardless of whether it is in government or not.

We sincerely hope that we have heard the last of these Manyetera-like excuses.

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