Thyolo violence must be condemned strongly


The violence that took place at Goliati in Thyolo and led to loss of lives and injuries during a rally addressed by President Joyce Banda on Sunday is unacceptable and should be condemned by all well meaning Malawians in strongest terms.

It is sad and counterproductive to the country’s democratic dispensation, which gives every person the right to assemble and hold as well as express an opinion on any matter — including politics, for some groups of people to use violence in fighting political opponents.

Anybody who prevents another from holding a political meeting and expressing their views is anti-democratic and should not be allowed to advance their out-dated way of doing things in the present Malawi. And violence, for whatever reason, is a crime and the police will be expected to do their work on the Thyolo incident by making sure that all those involved in this barbaric behavior are brought to book.

All political parties are allowed by the constitution to hold rallies anywhere in Malawi regardless of whose stronghold it is. In a multiparty democracy, where various parties contest for election to run a government, it is only through the political rallies that citizens will be able to make informed choices.

If every partisan grouping declared their area or location

no go zone for rival parties, this country would be divided into hostile territories that will make the practicing of democracy and multi-party politics impossible.

Even the leaders of political parties who come from these “fenced” sections would find it unattainable to hold rallies and sell their ideologies to voters in other areas.

It is only political tolerance that allows all political parties and their leaders to address rallies in all areas of the country, even where people have general reservations about their policies.

Incidents like it happened at Goliati on Sunday have the potential to threaten the country’s democratic dispensation, especially where followers of the party attacked in one incident would resort into revenge over leaders of the rival party once they come to address a meeting in their areas.

While condemning the violence, the incident in Thyolo should also serve as a reminder to our politicians on the importance of issue-based campaign rather than personal attacks on political opponents on a political podium.

The bad mouthing by Minister of Health Catherine Gotani Hara on DPP leader Peter Mutharika was not only unnecessary and wrong in the spirit of civilized campaigning as being aspired by many electoral stakeholders and voters. It was also irresponsible, careless, insensitive, provocative and unacceptable, especially coming from a minister and a senior ruling party official.

Why did she have to attack Mutharika in such an area in the first place? Shouldn’t the ruling party or state machinery have done some research on the sensitivities and advise the speakers on what should be said or not?

We all know what political influence and command the Mutharikas have in Thyolo and other surrounding areas.

The political research or intelligence expertise available at the disposal of the president and her ministers should have provided advice on what should be said at such rallies. Audience research is relevant in political communication.

The People’s Party should have been honest enough to admit that Thyolo is a DPP stronghold and that some provocative attacks on its leaders would better be avoided, in the process denying the thugs grounds for instigating violence.

Malawi can only be able to hold free and fair elections if the campaign activities are done peacefully and in a civilized manner.

Verbal abuses on political rivals and violence have the potential to disgrace the forthcoming elections and undermine their credibility, even in the eyes of the international community which is closely watching Malawi as we move towards the elections.

The ruling party, through the president, ministers and other senior officials, has a responsibility to lead by example in ensuring that the campaign is held in a cultured and dignified manner, far from the events that happened in Thyolo on Sunday.

Leaders as well as voters have key roles to play in ensuring violence free elections in the country.

One way this can be achieved is through issue-based campaigning and tolerance towards political rivals, not what happened at Goliati on Sunday. Thumbs down to the thugs who perpetuated the violence as well as to Catherine Gotani-Hara who provoked them.

Thom Khanje – who has written posts on BNL Times.