Sometime in July last year, after civil society organisations and the general populace threatened an uprising on Mutharika’s government he warned the people that he would ‘smoke’ them out. Bingu wa Mutharika averred he was ready to meet them in the streets and ruthlessly deal with them. While wondering what the President meant, l remembered a very fond saying by my father which went ‘wakhungu akakuti ndikuswa, ndiye kuti waponda mwala’ meaning when the blind man steps on a stone then he can threaten to smash your head with it.
The saying rings true with Bingu’s threats. No one ever thought Bingu was serious until last week on the 21st of March when Malawians who were demanding the release of United Democratic Fronts (UDF) presidential aspirant hammered left right and centre, ‘smoked’ out by overzealous police mounted on Bingu’s new blue troop carriers. Mwala wa Bingu (Bingu’s stone so to say).
The vehicles sighted during the demonstrations carried rabid police officers who manhandled demonstrators in and around the city kicking them at will while throwing teargas canisters from the navy blue carriers. The government has sourced 13 Casspir troop carriers from South Africa according to South Africa’s renowned Defence web site.
It’s ironic that on the very day 21st March when South Africa was making peace with its dark past – commemorating their Human Rights Day – the very tools of their oppression which they have since put to rest, the Casspir troop carriers used by the Afrikaner white supremacist regime during the apartheid era – were busy teargasing (smoking) Malawians whose only sin was to call on Bingu to play it fair and release opposition and presidential aspirant Atupele Muluzi nicked by the Malawi Police for allegedly inciting violent demonstrations in Lilongwe’s Area 24.
Fifty- two years back on the 21st of March 1960 the blue Casspir carriers used today by the Malawi Police were used to put down a demonstration in Johannesburg’s Sharpeville township where 69 black students were murdered by the Afrikaaner boer policemen. The black students who had converged at the local Sharpeville police station offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their compulsory passbooks as part of harsh raft of laws passed by the boer regime were teargased shot at and harassed by the boer policemen who felt threatened by defenceless unarmed demonstrators.
The crowd which numbered over 19,000 had become according to authorities then ‘insulting, menacing and provocative’ prompting over 130 rabid white police officers to descend on the youths killing 69 in the process. The policemen were armed with sub-machine guns and teargas and were mobilised into Shaperville using armoured personnel vehicles among them the Saracen, the Hippos and the Casspirs. Some jets and trainer planes were also used to try and scatter the crowds.
After South Africa’s independence in 1994, the new government ushered the 21st of March as a holiday the Human Rights Day to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre and to celebrate South Africa’s democratic government enforcement of equal human rights.
The navy blue Malawi Police armored vehicles used last Wednesday to quell rioters were also used by the feared Afrikaaner “Koevoet” police counter insurgency unit in northern Namibia during the apartheid era and also used by South African Army’s 5 Reconnaissance Regiment. The Casspirs as they are known were ubiquitous during the days of apartheid in South Africa and widely used in the townships in pitched running battles against demonstrators fighting for their independence.
Built by Denel, South Africa’s largest manufacturer of defense equipment, today the vehicle is a troop carrier for the motorized infantries with several of these vehicles deployed in peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo and used as far afield as in the Kashmir province of India against Tamil seperatists. The Indian government bought over a 100 of these vehicles according to the Defenceweb.
When Bingu promised to ‘smoke’ out Malawians he had already placed an order for 13 Casspir carriers from South Africa at a cost of over US$120,000 each at a time when the country is reeling against a shortage of foreign currency.
The most bizarre of things about this stinking deal is that these Casspirs are not even brand new but second hand refurbished carriers which may as well have been used to murder innocent South Africans in the past. What skewed priorities for this President and his government when the country is suffering from the general dearth of basic commodities, fuels, foreign currency and medicines? The money used to buy these carriers could have been put to better use to import drugs or fuel for the country since the country is at peace and needs no investment in such military armaments.
The generosity of the Malawi Police at dowsing Malawians with teargas gives rise to fear of how much Bingu has invested in smoking out Malawians given these are being freely dished out to perceived enemies of Bingu and his DPP government.
Malawi took delivery of the Blue Casspirs in January this year. The Casspirs which came through via Zimbabwe were spotted in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare on the afternoon of 16th January 2012 escorted by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Highway Patrol BMW cars driving along Upton and George Roads in Harare’s Ardbennie suburbs.
On board South African registered trucks, the Casspirs were shepherded to a trucking company in the Ardbennie Industrial area either to refuel the trucks or give the drivers a rest as they had just come off the Harare/Beitbridge highway ostensibly from the Beitbridge Border Post. All roads leading to the company were sealed off by the Zimbabwean Police to shelter the Carriers from prying media eyes.
However, the writer who happened to be in the area at the time managed to sneak behind one of the trucks and used a camera on his phone to photograph the trucks totalling four and each carrying a total of two Casspirs each to produce the montage of photos on this article. The sight of the navy blue Casspirs sent a chill down the spine of the writer who from the very onset knew they were destined for Malawi given the navy blue colour which is used by the Malawi Police.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) crowd control vehicles are painted grey in color and thus the writer was certain the blue Casspirs were not meant for Zimbabwe. Besides, Zimbabwe’s crowd control and troop carriers are built locally by Trinity Engineering a company belonging to a Zanu PF Senator Guy Georgias and Zimbabwe owns not even a single Casspir in its arsenal.
Bingu’s posturing and waste of Malawi’s meager resources is sickening to say the least and taking this country to the grave with very disastrous consequences for the ordinary Malawians. But it would appear this does not matter to him anymore as he is hell-bent to turn back the hands of time to an era of absolute dictatorship, when the country was awash with spies spilling its citizens secrets to keep them in tow and a dictator at the helm.
According to informed sources, Bingu has a secondment of Zimbabwean intelligence officers and military strategist some masquerading as diplomatic staff at the Zimbabwe High Commission who at their behest are designing and commanding this program of terror against Malawians to save Bingu’s bacon and perpetuate his rule through Peter Mutharikha.
Whilst the churches, political parties and ordinary citizenry are screaming at Bingu to rediscover his democratic manner, the country is fast sinking to the ground and hence the need to stop this mad president of our dead in his tracks before this country hits a low.
As has been touted before on spaces on this site, the opposition has got to come together and show this guy the exit. Bakili Muluzi’s stance that he will not keep quiet gives Malawians a sense of optimism. But as Malawians have said it is not Muluzi, not John Tembo, not Joyce Banda nor Chihana who can bring down this monster but they will all have to fight from the same corner of the boxing ring to make sure that Bingu’s DPP does not win another term come 2014. The destiny of this country lies in their hands.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :