Despite threats by President Peter Mutharika to crackdown on post-election demonstrations, protestors on Friday returned to the streets more determined than before.
Although looting and violence were sporadic, early in the morning, in Lilongwe, protesters took their anger to one of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners Reverend Kilion Mgawi, whose house was ransacked and vandalised at Nkhoma Trading Centre.
The crowd chanted Mgawi achoke! achoke! (Mgawi must go!), before storming the house, which was being guarded by police.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said Mgawi was safe as he was not at the house at the time of the attack.
“The demonstrators demolished the fence to the house. They have looted the house and farm produce. The family is not able to have access to the house,” he said.
Another victim was a suspected Democratic Progressive Party sympathiser, who was beaten by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers after he was spotted harassing protestors at Chichiri Upper Stadium in Blantyre before the march began in the city.
In Chitipa, protesters stoned Kulima Gold offices and looted Chipiku before setting on fire the district’s Forestry office.
Protesters in Blantyre said they came out in multitudes to show Mutharika that they are not moved with his threats to return ‘force with force’.
As early as 8am, Kamuzu Upper Stadium was filled with a sizeable crowd. There were a few skirmishes where suspected DPP cadets were manhandling protesters.
It had to take MDF soldiers to intervene and detain those who were harassing protesters. The marchers left for Blantyre Central Business District (CBD) at 1pm, with less than 200 people under MDF soldiers’ escort, where they were joined by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice-president Sidik Mia and his wife Abida.
Chilima, Chakwera shun protests
In Lilongwe, the demonstrations were largely peaceful in the urban areas.
In the CBD, vendors and shop owners went on with their business as a small crowd gathered to deliver their petition.
Both leaders of MCP Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima did not take part in the protest march.
But addressing protesters on the way to Capital Hill, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence announced that they are planning to hold four-hour vigils from next Tuesday outside all State residences until MEC chairperson Jane Ansah steps down.
“From next week, we will be camping outside State houses, whether it’s Chikoko Bay, Sanjika or Kamuzu Palace, we are not scared. We will hold vigils there until Ansah resigns,” said Trapence.
Ugly scenes in Chitipa, Rumphi
In Mzuzu, the situation was generally peaceful although one man was hacked and rushed to hospital.
But, in Chitipa, government and private companies were targeted and torched.
Anti-Ansah protests began as early at 8.30am as marchers chanted to deliver their petition to the District Commissioner (DC) before some went berserk to torch the Forestry office, stone Kulima Gold offices and break into Chipiku Stores.
Chitipa HRDC coordinator Sydney Simwaka said things went out of hand because people were mixing issues.
He said protesters were incensed because DC Humphrey Gondwe did not speak to the crowd. The protesters were dispersed after police fired teargas.
MEC declared Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, with 1 940 709 votes. He was trailed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes.
Chilima and Chakwera have since filed a petition in court, seeking nullification of the results over alleged irregularities.
—Reporting by Joseph Mwale, Golden Matonga, Ntchindi Meki, Jonathan Pasungwi and John Kasalika, Staff reporters.