No tolerance for intolerance

August 15 2019

Thursday morning, Malawi woke up to the news that Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Timothy Mtambo’s house was petrol-bombed in the wee hours. It was not known, by then, who was responsible for the arson.

That arson comes on the heels of the burning of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice-president Sidik Mia’s office in Blantyre. Not so long ago, the MCP sub-headquarters in Blantyre was also torched.

From what the MCP officials are saying, the blame is on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the arson acts. In the party’s president Lazarus Chakwera’s words, this is just a means of trying to instill fear in him and his followers to repudiate his stance that DPP president Peter Mutharika did not win the May 21 polls.

On its part, the DPP has denied the allegations, saying that in fact they are the ones living in fear, since their property has been looted in the demonstrations. In the words of the party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi “DPP officials are victims of the violence.” He cites his assault at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) warehouse as an example.

DPP secretary general parried the HRDC argument that the violence that erupts from their ‘peaceful’ demonstrations? In her words, as chief executive officer for the party, she has not sent any cadets to unleash reigns of terror on demonstrators and other targets.

Needless to say that some DPP cadets were roughed up in Blantyre as they tried to stop the course of the demonstrations.

The growing animosity is really worrying. On organising demonstration, the onus is on organisers to have stewards who can root out elements that may choose to destroy the spirit of peaceful demonstrators.

You don’t use fire to douse fire. The use of violence to prove a point is archaic, in as much as it is obsolete.

The route cause for all this violence is intolerance. This intolerance is being fuelled by some elements that benefit from anarchy. Provocation is the fuel for more hatred, which leads to more destruction.

When you sow the wind, you harvest the tsunami. It would appear those involved in all this are undermining its results in the near future.

It has been seen before where demonstrations turn violent because some elements want to stand in the way of the spirit of demonstrations. I will bet my last dime the July 20 2011 tragedy could not have happened if it were not for an injunction obtained on the eve of the demonstrations. It is this kind of destruction that provokes the people’s anger.

Where you have police tear gassing people up and about the streets in protests, the result is violence. Not that I condone violence, but at times, the police crowd control methods incite people, at times, to riot and loot.

While we are at it, I hear the Joint Civil Society Platform on Good Governance has been formed to hold a series of nationwide demonstrations against organisers of the anti-Jane Ansah protests. They have on the cards the Nationwide Marches for Peace.

Freedom of association is guaranteed in the Constitution, so is the freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration. However, where such freedom is used to instil fear in others, it is unconstitutional. There is no group, force or power that can stop anybody else from demonstrating.n

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