Read Thru: A prudent course of action for the Tonse administration would be to acknowledge the failures and show Malawians that they are working to reverse the country’s misfortunes.
That politician Bon Kalindo is still waiting for formal charges following his re-arrest earlier this week will probably stoke the belief that the Tonse-led administration is out to ‘silence’ the new self-styled people’s champion.
It makes little sense that the police arrested Kalindo, a former director of youth in the UTM Party—a key Tonse Alliance partner— soon after his arrest without knowing the offence he committed.
Police’s conduct will, in the eyes of Kalindo’s sympathisers, lend credence to the assumption that the second arrest is recrimination for orchestrating demonstrations against the Tonse-led administration.
No one in his right mind would argue that Kalindo should be held accountable for the remarks he made regarding circumstances surrounding the death of Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament Clement Chiwaya, and the murders of persons with albinism, considering how sensitive these two issues are.
Kalindo’s remarks could, at best, inspire a loss of trust in the country’s security system, especially regarding protecting people with albinism.
At worst, it could inspire hatred towards the country’s authorities if some sections of Malawians are led to believe that the political authorities in Malawi know who is behind the killings.
Kalindo has a case to answer, but until he is proven guilty by a competent court of law, he should be presumed innocent and should be afforded his full rights, including the right to bail.
For some time, the word on the street was that Kalindo was arrested in relation to the looting and riots that followed his protests in Lilongwe or Blantyre. That would have been a valid case, but it would have opened up a completely new narrative on the whole saga.
The elephant in the room, as some sections of Malawians pointed out, would have been why Kalindo is prosecuted for the looting and rioting during demonstrations when organisers of the anti-Jane Ansah protests are not facing similar charges.
In a joint statement released on Monday, some civil society organisations urged the police to arrest the Minister of Civic Education Timothy Mtambo and the leadership of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) if the police believe that was a valid charge.
According to the statement, Mtambo and his colleagues “led the endless violent demonstrations between May 2019 and April 2020, where billions of kwacha-worth of property was damaged, and left scores of people injured, including the gruesome murder of the late senior police officer Usuman Imedi”.
The police may say that Kalindo’s arrest was not politically-motivated and there were no orders from above, but they should have known that those accusations were inevitable in the present political climate.
It does not bode well for the police and, by extension, the Tonse Alliance, to arrest a person for holding demonstrations that led to riots while others did the same, albeit at a larger scale, but got ministerial and diplomatic positions.
This perceived brand of selective justice will spell trouble for the Malawi Police and the Tonse-led administration. If the public feels Kalindo’s arrest is political, then arresting him on dubious charges will only stoke his sympathisers to be more aggressive.
The problem for the alliance right now is that Kalindo has an audience, and rightly so. Malawians who are following him are disgruntled that the Tonse Alliance has failed to live up to the promises it made in the run-up to the 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election.
The rising inflation, ongoing nepotism in this administration and the perceived failure to revamp the economy as well as create jobs have prompted people to rally against the alliance.
Naturally, the opposition has come to the fold to capitalise on the alliance’s perceived failures. It is hard to see whether Kalindo is the mastermind or the pawn in this game, but he is key to resolving this whole saga.
The best way for the alliance to step out of this crisis is to admit that there is a problem. Denial will only infuriate Malawians who are disillusioned about the current state of affairs.
A prudent course of action for the Tonse administration would be to acknowledge the failures and show Malawians that they are working to reverse the country’s misfortunes.
President Lazarus Chakwera still has the patience of Malawians, but the police’s conduct with Kalindo will lose him that goodwill and trust.