A nation of political violence

Won the streets are saddened by reports of violence that occurred in Mangochi last week when United Transformation Movement (UTM) was launching its movement at St Augustine 3 Primary School in the district.

Two vehicles, a pickup, which is an errand vehicle for the movement and another, registration number NA 4112, belonging to Mzimba West legislature Agnes Nyalonje, were smashed and burnt at Hotspot and Highway lodges, respectively. Both incidences happened while many of us were in bed and just hours away from the main launch event.

Few months ago, we also heard that thugs torched Bon Kalindo’s vehicle in Mulanje. That is not all, two years ago, Salima North legislature Jessie Kabwila had her vehicle burnt to ashes at Lilongwe Golf Club.

All these incidences are alleged to be politically connected. But to date, no politician has been taken to task for any of these incidences. The small boys who carry out these tasks are also walking freely. Our police continue to sing the same aged poem “investigations are underway”.

We on the streets wonder whether the democracy that others fought for in 1993 really mean anything to the country. Why should having different political interests deprive you of some rights?

While this is physical torture, verbal political violence has also grown roots on the lips of our political leaders. Just a week ago, President Peter Mutharika while touring the North, lost his temper and threatened to ‘drop like a tonne of bricks’ on his political enemies.

Nonetheless, we on the streets were not surprised. We took it as a translation of the popular Ndikunyenyanyani slogan. It seems if you trample on the big man’s feet, do not expect soft punishments.

However, APM’s reaction was a response to verbal attacks inflicted on him and his wife, Gertrude. The opponents had branded the senior citizen Mtchona, who is clueless on what Malawians need. They went on to question the wife’s academic credentials.

We, alongside others, such as the former president Bakili Muluzi, are concerned with insult politics. We are battling with the question of what happened to issue-based politics that is free from insults. Because what is happening now is that if they do not insult each other using direct words then demeaning parables will be at play. That is how low our politicians have sunk.

We on the streets are worried because what these politicians are doing is what shapes the thinking of the masses. If our leaders are badmouthing their opponents in public, how do you expect a supporter or our youths to be different?

Sadly, the situation is worsening. The watchdogs, particularly the civil society organisations (CSOs), have joined the fray. While we commend their role in ensuring good governance, we are worried with the violent approaches; particularly the repetitiveness of topics and ultimatums attached. These yield very little.

Just few months ago, we were on the streets supporting the delivery of a petition with a list of issues.  Weeks after the expiry of the ultimate, we saw our activists crying foul that government had not addressed the concerns they raised. Now, why should we be on the streets again on September 7?

In the former petition, corruption and poor governance were the topical issues. In the petition currently in kitchen, the activists are also raising the same issues. Are we making progress? Do we really have time to spend on the streets on same issues again? Of course, our political leaders do this as part of their job. It is the source of their bread, but what is in it for us with regards to that the effort is yielding little results?

We on the streets feel some of these steps are serving the interests of the few. We earlier said youths are tired of being used on the streets. We lost many lives in 2011 and we are always cautious when someone mentions demos.

Indeed, it is high time our country moves from violence to peaceful ways of addressing issues. At political podiums, let our political leaders preach peace and issue-based campaigns. Being on the streets should not be the last resort because in nine months time, we will be back in the booth to exercise our right to vote and give mandate to a candidate who meets our interests and not someone’s.

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