The Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi on Thursday failed to condemn Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets involved in violence that thwarted a planned Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) march in Blantyre on Wednesday.
Delivering a ministerial statement on the violence that left five people, including human rights activist Billy Mayaya, injured, the minister, to the chagrin of opposition legislators, instead faulted HRDC for allegedly organising a march without notifying Malawi Police Service (MPS) and Blantyre City Council 48 hours in advance as provided in the Police Act.
But in an interview last evening, HRDC Central Region chairperson MacDonald Sembereka, who was one of the lead organisers of the foiled demonstration to petition Electoral Commissions Forum on Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Member States to remove Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah as its president, described the minister’s sentiments as a fallacy.
Said Sembereka: “That’s crazy. We announced this during a press conference and also there were announcements all over the radios, TVs and the social media.
“The 48 hours they are saying was observed. What is it that they want to say. They have run out of excuses. Why can’t they just concentrate on arresting the people? We know up to now no one was arrested.”
In his statement, Dausi said MPS and Malawi Defence Force (MDF) went to Kamuzu Stadium upper ground and made impromptu security arrangements upon learning that the demonstrators had assembled.
Said the minister: “A team of some senior police officers persuaded them not to proceed to Sunbird Mount Soche. The fear, Madam Speaker, was that they would endanger the international and local delegates attending this important meeting.
“They [protesters] were requested that since they had already gathered, very few people would be allowed to take their petition to an official from the Sadc meeting at Clock Tower and not Sunbird Mount Soche.”
Dausi said the demonstrators “were slightly below 200 in number” and were foiled near Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds where Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Kondwani Nankhumwa was opening the 16th National Agriculture Fair.
He said people “in DPP party clothing” and the demonstrators clashed, pelting each other with stones. The demonstrators fled and some of them later regrouped near Ginnery Corner.
Responding to the minister’s statement, opposition legislators took turns to condemn the violence and asked government to be decisive on how to deal with perpetrators of violence, including DPP youth cadets seen in most video clips in circulation.
Nkhata Bay South legislator Ken Zikhale Ng’oma (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) said it was sad that government decided to come to the House just to generalise condemnation when they know the culprits of the recent violence included DPP cadets.
He said: “What has government done and why are you not condemning the violence your cadets did? They were clad in DPP T-shirts written Kondwani Nankhumwa, why is it that no one has been arrested? We expect the Minister of Agriculture to apologise for this.”
Dowa East lawmaker Richard Chimwendo Banda (MCP) warned government that if they were not going to arrest the cadets, it will be useless to present statements in Parliament which promise arrests but nothing happens.
“There is need for the minister to condemn their own cadets. Can you arrest those who beat Billy Mayaya yesterday, the video is all over and there is nothing that has been done,” he said.
Dausi’s statement followed a point of national concern raised by interim leader of opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe on the violence in Blantyre where DPP cadets and HRDC mobilised protesters clashed.
The minister sad “government is disappointed and concerned” with the rising cases of violence.
HRDC wanted to deliver a petition addressed to the Sadc meeting to hold MEC accountable for presiding over an alleged fraudulent electoral process in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.