The case of the harassment and victimisation of United Transformation Movement (UTM) is nothing new in the country’s political history.
In 2003, Brown Mpinganjira’s National Democratic Alliance (NDA) felt the power and might of the government, as did People’s Party (PP) when its registration process met with resistance.
What NDA and PP had in common was to dare to have a go at challenging the status quo, something UTM has done on a grand scale in its few months of existence.
UTM’s attempts to register as a political party have been thwarted and with the legal reasons provided by the Registrar of Political Parties, one is inclined to think they are justified.
While the attempts to frustrate UTM’s drive could have ended at the door of the Registrar of Political Parties, the councils of Blantyre and Lilongwe joined the fray in denying the Vice President Saulos Chilima’s team from holding a rally in Ndirande and on the pretext that it is not a registered political party.
The councils cited Section 17 of the Political Parties (Registration and Regulations) Act which does not allow any political party or entity that is not registered from electioneering in an election.
The councils know very well that UTM has been lawfully gathering since July at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe, with the permission of councils and the police to provide security.
The signatories to the letters are aware of Section 38 of the Constitution which gives individuals the freedom to assembly peacefully as long as procedures are followed, which include informing the police.
It is becoming a pointless exercise for those in power to continue finding reasons to put spanners in the works of UTM ahead of the election. The courts have been UTM’s friend on all occasion’s that they have sought relief within its walls.
It could be that those who are putting roadblocks on UTM’s mobilisation drive know their attempts will not yield results, among these the Malawi Police Service (MPS).
If they saw it fit to deploy over 40 police officers to the security detail of the Vice President, then reasons for doing so cannot suddenly change now that Chilima is in bad books with the government.
The move this week to transfer the security, for the second time, smacks of impunity and foolishness especially when the matter was previously resolved in an out of court agreement barely six weeks ago.
It makes no sense for the police to wilfully transfer the officers on the pretext that they are more than SKC is entitled to. When did they find out that this is irregular and what other irregularities will surface between now and May 21?
The more the DPP slings mud at UTM, the more it grows thick skin enough to withstand anything that might be thrown at them.
As every attempt to thwart UTM fails, whether at the behest of the courts or failure of the government to follow through as it happened with Maness Hale criminal charges, the less people will take the governmment seriously.
As the DPP tries its best to discredit UTM and its leadership the more its popularity is likely to grow. Everyone likes an underdog.
Much as there is no empirical evidence, DPP did gain some sympathy votes in 2014 when its top leadership, including President Peter Mutharika and Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe were facing charges of treason.
Victimisation of a seemingly underdog in this election can be likened to kicking a sick dog and that will just earn the DPP scorn and contempt.
The Democratic Progressive Party has everything to lose and nothing much to gain by syching the government dogs on UTM at every turn.