The coming in of Tonse Alliance as a governing bloc to replace the Democratic Progressive Party was a turning point to Malawi in terms of law enforcement and political hooliganism.
Since Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika days, Malawians have been paying a heavy price for political hooliganism.
Most of these hooliganism was perpetrated by youth cadres from respective ruling parties. Malawians will always remember the disturbing prime days of hooliganism between 2019 and 2020 when the DPP unleashed fear in Malawians who were protesting the outcome of the now annulled 2019 election.
The violence was intended to scare off demonstrators and change the course of politics in their favour.
This aspect is similar to what transpired during colonial days during the transition from white British rule to independence. This period too was marred with violence and political competition across the nation and there were all form of assaults and armed clashes between white settlers and independence nationalists.
Then came the first multiparty era after which Kamuzu Banda emerged Prime Minister and later President in 1964. When he took total grip of power years later there was no proper exchange and differing of political ideas so political hooliganism among parties was non – existent.
When the country returned to multiparty dispensation in the early 90s politicians seemed to have picked where they previous generation left from.
The employment of youths for political hooliganism resurfaced with Bakili Muluzi deploying the Young Democrats on dissenting populace.
Reverend Kalebe, Chief Wimbe, Brown Mpinganjira, Gwanda Chakuamba, Hetherwick Ntaba, Mark Mezalumo and many others were victims of Young Democrats across the ten years that Muluzi was in power.
The Mutharika brothers too had their own share of youth hooliganism to silence critics.
The likes of McDonald Sembereka, late Rafik Hajat, Billy Mayaya, the Tambala family in Area 24, Timothy Mtambo and hundreds others faced the wrath for speaking out. In cases of Issah Njaunju and Robert Chasowa, they did not have enough luck and to die mercilessly.
During Bingu’s tenure as a measure to tame demonstrations, cadres would be deployed the day before protest by way of wielding machetes.
It was exceedingly worrying and retrogressive in that these suspected cadres seem to have assumed some fake if not cosmetic authority to overpower and even bully civil servants in governments departments.
They would use road unworthy cars so long a DPP badge and piece of cloth was draped in front to the car. That was enough to be a driving license, Certificate of Fitness OF and Insurance and no law enforcement agent would ever dare to stop them.
Malawians have wondered at how parties use violence become the tool for sustenance of political capital by those holding power.
Political Scientist Eddy Karonga says gangs called “cadres” are employed by ruling parties since 1997 to deal with rival politicians from the opposition political parties and other critics but he blames it on party leadership, specifically from the youth.
He cites examples from old and recent happenings where cadres have gone full throttle damaging public infrastructure with impunity and harassing innocent citizens who hold divergent ideologies as well as removing individuals from positions or branch in the police such as CID and Traffic department.
As a departure from the thuggery norm, President Lazarus Chakwera promised even before he assumed power to with the architects, sponsors, and perpetrators of violence both in his party and nationally.
“The choice of Inspector General of Police, George Kainja, was such that he should deal with everyone who is attempting to turn our country into lawlessness as people are arrested impartially by the reformed Police Service,” said Karonga.
However, there are others who believe that ruling party have their hands tied to conclusively deal with this tendency.
Newspaper columnist Macferson Msowoya contends that no political party in the world will destroy its grassroots support base for the sake of pleasing others. As Napoleon Bonaparte observed: “Stupidity is never a handicap in politics.”
“It is therefore folly to think and wholly trust that most political leaders would enforce law and order especially if such undertakings are seriously going to reduce their popularity,” said Msowoya.
That said, President Chakwera still takes politics as a noble vocation to serve and ensure that citizens live dignified lives. He has said time without numbers that those who are in power and even those aspiring for public office, should be individuals of integrity who place the welfare of the nation at heart.
“These should be Malawian citizens who are above reproach to make tough decisions which benefit the majority,” said Chakwera repeatedly on his campaign trail.
This urgent call to stop hooliganism in Malawi has earned Chakwera credit.
“The end of that barbaric acts were to start with leaders of various political parties to provide will power and denounce such retrogressive undertakings by their own cadres like Chakwera has been doing,” says Karonga.
The political will to stop violence and hooliganism by Chakwera has been complimented by having the Malawi Police Service (MPS) that is totally free from political influence.
The MPS and all the other professional wings within the Ministry of Home Affairs have been accorded resources and space to achieve their mandate.
Previously, the MPS was seen to be toothless as some of the tasks they required to perform could seem to be in conflict with the wishes of the rulers of the time.
The challenge in all the regimes before was that the grassroots supporters of the ruling party perceived the Inspector General to be loyal to their political party.
“The IG must assume this high-profile portfolio on merit and not undercover political agendas. And he or she ought to be like IG Kainja,” said one junior police officer who spoke to this publication.