Malawi Police fired teargas directed at the former first lady Callista Mutharika to break up United Transformation Movement (UTM) supporters who poured at Police headquarters to hold a vigil following the arrest of their member Manice Hale on accusation of falsifying information and insulting the President.
Hale, a naturalized American citizen of Malawian dissent – known on Facebook as Manice Abiti William Dawood was arrested on Tuesday at the Kamuzu International Airport as she was about to board her flight back to her base in United States.
Callista, the incumbent President’s in-law who is a senior UTM member, led the movement supporters to police to hold the vigil to force the cops to release Hale. She led the UTM supporters singing “Mukamalimbana naye Chilima, mumumva kuwawa”.
Police told the UTM members to leave the place but they resisted and cops fired teargas directly to Callista who was whisked away by well wishers.
The UTM members have remained defiant and were still at the police station.
One of the UTM members told Nyasa Times from Area 30 police that they have resolved to be camping outside the Police until Hale is released unconditionally.
Police told UTM members to stop protesting, warning them that their conduct was likely to cause breach of peace.
“Ours was supposed to be a peaceful vigil but police always act with a heavy hand,” said Frank Chirombo a UTM supporter.
UTM members on social media and political rallies have been accused of disrespecting President Peter Mutharika by calling him ‘mtchona’, a description of someone who has been away from his or her country for long.
Mutharika stayed abroad for decades where he was employed as an academic.
The President warned UTM against attacking him, threatening, if they continue: “I am going to break a tonne of bricks on your heads.”
Mutharika in a highly charged tone warned to deal with the movement supporters using Section Four of the Protected Flag, Emblems And Names Act, which provides penalties for anyone who does any act or utters any words or publishes or utters any writing calculated to or liable to insult, ridicule or to show disrespect to or with reference to the President.