The ugly face of political violence has cost a Mangochi woman her marriage. The woman was stripped naked by suspected governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rough-necks on Sunday and her husband said he cannot stand the humiliation.
Narrating her ordeal during a news conference organised by women politicians courtesy of the 50-50 Campaign Management Agency in Lilongwe yesterday, Veronica Katanga, 32, said her husband has abandoned her alongside three children he was supporting.
Katanga is one of UTM Party members seen in a video clip being victimised by suspected DPP operatives. The clip, taken in Mangochi, went viral on the Internet on Sunday.
In the clip, she and some men are seen being ordered to take off their branded red UTM Party T-shirts with a portrait Vice-President Saulos Chilima emblazoned on the chest. She is also seen covering herself with a cloth (chitenje) and her bra is exposed.
Katanga said her crew was enroute to Makanjira in Mangochi for a rally when they were ambushed at Khokwe by the suspected DPP youth cadets.
She said: “We were passing by the market in Mangochi on Sunday when we heard some people shouting or cheering. We thought they were giving us moral support.
“We didn’t know what lay ahead as when we reached Khokwe we found a vehicle with DPP flag and colours parked by the roadside. We were asked to stop and the occupants [of the DPP vehicle] ordered us to take off our UTM T-shirts.
“They took off my T-shirt and left me with a bra with one of my breasts exposed… I was saved by women from the surrounding area who gave me a chitenje to cover myself.”
Katanga said her husband has abandoned her, saying the incident has made him a laughing stock in the community.
She said the man was taking care of her two children from an earlier relationship aged eight and four, and her deceased sisters 18-year-old child.
The Mangochi incident was one of the cases of rising political violence and intimidation, mostly targeting opposition parties UTM and Malawi Congress Party (MCP), ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The women politicians have since given government a seven-day ultimatum to arrest the perpetrators of the violence or face street protests that will culminate in petitioning President Peter Mutharika, Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
Reading the press statement at the news conference, independent aspiring legislator Lucy Lunguzi said the women were fed up and demand tangible action.
Flanked by women politicians Patricia Shanil Dzimbiri of UTM, Patricia Mkanda of MCP, Edith Mpunga of People’s Party, Yasinta Chikaonda of DPP and legislator Jessie Kabwila as chairperson of Women’s Caucus in Parliament as well as Fawzia Osman representing United Democratic Front, Lunguzi said the women were concerned with the apparent lack of action from authorities.
She said: “There is deafening silence from government and all its arms in addressing political violence as the cases are numerous and the most disgusting one is that of stripping of our sister, Veronica.”
Besides demanding the arrest of perpetrators, the women are also seeking a clear record and time line plus a feed back mechanism on every case of political violence and that Mutharika, as a He-for-She champion, to condemn any form of violence.
In her contribution, Chikaonda said DPP is standing with the women in politics and condemns the violence that happened to the woman.
She said: “ We strongly condemn what happened as DPP. Our president [Mutharika] is ready to protect the plight of women. He even highlighted that in his New Year’s Day message.”
This is the first time women in politics from across the political divide came together to condemn political violence. Their effort comes after their party leaders committed to end violence.
The conference was held under the theme ‘I refuse to be undressed and beaten for participating in politics. I say no to political violence’.
Malawi Police Service has come under fire, especially from opposition parties, civil society organisations and Malawi Law Society, for turning a blind eye to cases of political violence notably against opposition sympathisers.