Malawi Police have confirmed that a gang of five men armed with pangas and dangerous implements roughed up a guard at the offices of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) in the capital, Lilongwe, demanding the address of its outspoken Executive Director Timothy Mtambo – who happens to be Human Rights Defender Coalition (HRDC) current chairman.
Civil rights activists, through chat-rooms and blogs, have seen government’s hand in the attempt on Mtambo’s life because, apart from the demand of its Executive Director’s address, nothing was stolen at the CHRR office but they hacked a guard.
“The guard has been treated as an outpatient and has been referred to Kamuzu Central Hospital for further examination. He has suffered swollen head and two front teeth have been weakened,” said rights activist Gift Trapence.
G4 Security firm which are guarding the CHRR offices also confirmed the incident and said the matter was reported to Police.
National police deputy spokesman Thomeck Nyaude confirmed receiving the report and said they are investigating the matter.
But Trapence and Mtambo suspect the notorious ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to have carried out the attacks.
Mtambo said the DPP youths cadets came around seven or eight in the evening but when the guard shouted, they drove off only to retain three hours later.
“When they came back, they asked for my directions to my residence before they dropped the petrol bomb at the gate of our offices,” he said.
He said they hacked the guard after he refused to give them directions to the house of Mtambo.
“The guard was taken to hospital before we reported the matter to police,” he said.
He queried: “Why did they want to know where I live? It means they wanted to harm me.”
Mtambo said civil rights activists in Malawi are receiving anonymous phone calls threatening them with all sorts of harms, including death, for their open criticism of the DPP administration on economic and governance issues.
“These might be DPP cadets because we have been receiving threats from them. We strongly believe they are DPP cadets,” he said.
“The threats have come in many forms, some are death threats, others are messages that simply indicate that they (the civil society leaders) are being followed or traced and others are indicating that they will be dealt with in a variety of ways,” said the fearless activist.
Mtambo said the attack is “cheap and stupid intimidation tactic.”
He said defiantly: “They will not stop my quest for justice and better Malawi. That will not happen even over my dead and rotten body. I will hold them accountable even in the world of the dead and after life.”
The development follows reports that Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka has said he has received a threatening phone call warning him of his impending death
But DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi has rejected the claims, saying the DPP has no such time.
He said it is only the police which can come up with a professional investigation on who petrol bombed the offices.
DPP cadets petrol bombed the same offices seven years ago when the DPP founding leader Bingu wa Mutharika was in power.
Police fail to investigate issues to do with cadets as their commander in chief Peter Mutharika is also the president of the DPP.
Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali has asked President Peter Mutharika to provide assurances of the State’s protection to human rights defenders and critics of the regime.
Munthali said there has been some vestiges of intolerance to criticism by the current regime which did not only portray the picture of a leadership which accorded itself immunity to criticism, but also posed serious threats to the work of human rights defenders, public intellectuals, and the critics of the regime.
He said the failure of the Police to institute and in some few cases conclude investigations into these alleged death threats has often given ammunition to the perpetrators of such threats to continue doing so knowing very well that no one will hold them accountable.
“Worse still, the failure of government to strongly assure protection to human rights defenders and public intellectuals as guaranteed by the Constitution has often led to the growing public perception that both government and the police are accomplice to this,” he said.
He said matters of death threats are not laughing matters especially as the country approaches the tripartite elections due May 21 2019.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :