40 arrested over demos

Police in the Northern Region have arrested 40 people suspected to have been involved in looting, theft and torching of property during the June 20 and July 4 to 5 2019 demonstrations.

During the first protests aimed at forcing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah to resign, some protesters in Mzuzu went berserk, they broke into a Bata Shoe Company shop and stole items and stoning several buildings.

Torched public offices in Mzuzu

Thereafter, 11 people were arrested and charged with breaking into a building and committing a felony therein, but also malicious damage, charges they have all pleaded not guilty at the Mzuzu Magistrate’s Court.

On July 5, the suspected looters set ablaze Chibavi Police Unit in Mzuzu, and even freed suspects, they ransacked Aunt Tina Lodge belonging to DPP deputy director of operations Big Joe Nyirongo, destroyed a car, stole property and threw stones at the house of senior DPP official and former Cabinet minister Grace Chiumia.

During the protests,  vehicles of DPP constituency governor for Mzuzu, Dennis Moyo, were smashed whereas a shop of the party’s director of youth in the region Kelvin Chirambo was raided at Mchengautuba Township in Mzuzu.

This was after the protesters on July 4 raided some public offices which they looted and set on fire. Those affected included Treasury Cashier’s office and Department of Parks and Wildlife.

In Karonga, protesters also ransacked offices, including  those of Northern Region Water Board, district council, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Forestry and a service station shop.

In Rumphi, they stoned the district commissioner’s house and a vehicle belonging to the DC’s office. It was peaceful in Nkhata Bay on Thursday.

While property owners are still reporting the damages to police, Northern Region Police publicist Peter Kalaya said on Thursday that they were working tirelessly to bring the looters to book.

“We have already arrested 11 people in Rumphi and 18 in Mzuzu for the 4 and 5 July protests. Remember, during the first demonstrations we arrested 11 who are remanded at Mzuzu Prison and will be back in court on July 9 2019.

“I also need to state that we have so far recovered 55 of the 213 bicycles stolen from the ADD offices, but also two central processing units (CPU) and four computer monitors. We are hopeful that more will be recovered,” he said.

Kalaya stressed that those arrested took advantage of the protests to advance their criminal activities, warning, the law enforcers are doing everything possible to bring them to book.

Karonga District Council spokesperson Isaac Mkandawire said they had been locked in a meeting on Saturday from 8am, after which they will produce a report to be looked at on Monday in mapping the way forward.

“Everything was burnt down. We can’t work  because all the tools are gone. Computers, papers, anything that you know people use for work is gone. We are now looking at what to do, but seriously we have been affected.

“I can’t seriously say when we will get back to business, because that is what we are doing now in looking at immediate solutions. At the end of the day, we don’t want people to suffer, we serve people and we have to make sure we give them the services,” he said.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Gift Trapence has said they will conduct an assessment of the protests before announcing another step in forcing Ansah out of MEC.

“I must state, as we have done before, that HRDC organised peaceful protests. So, those found looting must face the law. We want Ansah to resign, not people breaking and stealing property, that’s not HRDC.

“We will have an assessment of the protests we had before announcing further steps on what we will do next. Let me thank Malawians who came out in large numbers and marched peacefully, but those who were violent must be condemned and face the law,” he said.

During the May 21 polls, Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) retained the presidency with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent trailed by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent) while Chilima came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent.

However, opposition MCP and UTM Party protested the pools, and filed with the courts seeking nullification of the same, while supporters, including civil society groups have been in the streets demanding electoral justice.

Already, the European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) to Malawi said vote counting in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections was challenged by poor conditions and poor adherence to procedures.

In a 12-page preliminary statement dated May 23 2019, the Mission has also punched holes in the electoral legal framework, especially on the absence of deadlines for filing and adjudicating election disputes.

A Sadc Election Observation Mission (Seom) preliminary report said the May 21 2019 tripartite elections were professionally managed, but it observed a number of electoral processes that need reforms.

In its preliminary report, the Seom said it was aware that the Special Law Commission was tasked with electoral reforms in Malawi after the 2014 Tripartite Elections and it presented its final report to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs in April 2017.

However, the mission recommended that electoral laws still need to be reformed, among others, on appointment of MEC commissioners, period for voter registration and the role of the State broadcaster, among others.

Voting in the Tripartite Elections took place on May 21 2019 in all the 5002 polling stations.

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