Usi, known as Manganya in drama circles, was accompanied by lookalikes of the fallen leaderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bodyguards, youth leaguers, mbumba (party women) and a motorcade when he started the road show amid drumming, dancing and applause from about 500 people at the Old Town Hall.
Southern Region Police Headquarters spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa denied Usi was arrested, saying he was invited for a discussion not to proceed with the rehearsal because President Bingu wa Mutharika would use the same route.
The audience followed the show up to the Clock Tower, where the offices of KamuzuÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are located, when five vehicles on the convoy started speeding reportedly to avoid blocking Masauko Chipembere Highway.
However, the actors and dancing queens say they were surprised when a Toyota Land Cruiser carrying armed police officers, including Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose, stopped the open-roof Land Rover carrying of UsiÃ¢â‚¬â€garbed in a black suit and Wilson hat, and hoisting a fly whisk like KamuzuÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ¢â‚¬â€at Universal Industries factory at Ginnery Corner.
According to Usi, the law enforcers told him to stop at Ginnery Corner for discussion, but they later led his vehicles to Southern Region Police Headquarters where he was “requested to discontinue the parade” for fear of colliding with MutharikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s convoy.
Said Usi: “Commissioner Jose ran towards my car and told me to proceed into the fence. I complied without asking questions because I am a law-abiding citizen. I had permits from the city council, Censorship Board and the police themselves to hold the road show.
“While at the regional police headquarters, Jose politely asked me to stop and pave the way for the President. I wish they had taken into account that the show was in terms of rehearsals as well as hiring actors and vehicles. In fact, I insured all the participants in case of mishaps.”
But a member of Police Mobile Service, who refused to be named, told Nation on Sunday that Mutharika was in Lilongwe at the time the parade was intercepted.
“If the President was scheduled to use the road during the show, police officers would be all over the city guarding and clearing the passage for him,” he said.
The actors suspected the obstruction was an “order from above” in reaction to spectators at the Old Town Hall who booed First Lady Callista MutharikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s motorcade which was cruising from Sanjika Palace to St Columba CCAP Church where she graced the WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Day of Prayer.
Lorries and minibuses carrying women clad in MCPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mbumba wear and men in the red shirts of the defunct Youth League were forced to park outside the fence when Jose and other senior police officers escorted Usi into the police yard where he spent about 45 minutes.
There was panic and drama as the group refused to leave the police premises unless Usi was released. Singing and ululating, they were joined by striking High Court staff, who sang “zonse zimene nza Kamuzu Banda” as Usi drove away at 2pm without being charged.
The procession was part of the rehearsals for Kale play and film documentary on the positive legacy of the former head of State. The stage production was expected to premiere later this month while the film was earmarked for August next year.
Usi says he has suspended the productions to understand the police action and concentrate on his PhD studies.