Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Malawi: A Police State?

Over-weight, obese, and fierce-looking police officers, long used to circumventing the distance between their offices and the loo, on Wednesday thronged the boulevard leading up to Limbe Roman Catholic Cathedral in Blantyre.
It's not President Bingu wa Mutharika they were after, or out to protect; no, the President made no public outing this particular day. Malawi's President was home and dry at the New State House, the 200-roomed Presidential abode, in Malawi's capital city, Lilongwe.
The police were out on a strange mission: following the tail of President Bingu wa Mutharika's words on March 5 this year.
The President, addressing people in his home district of Thyolo, warned that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were up to some nasty act bordering on, not only simple mischief but, treason.
Mutharika said, to the surprise of all and sundry, that CSOs were planning a coup. He said some development partners, out to influence regime change, were funning, fanning, and funding the CSOs so they could carry out a violent attack on his duly-elected government.
Incidentally, the quasi-religious group, Public Affairs Committee (PAC), announced that it would hold a meeting from March 14 to 15 this week.
In his speech, the President did not mention PAC, only saying that the CSOs would carry out the coup on March 14. It never came to pass.
Other government officials said Mutharika meant March 28.
However, as if out to wave an imaginary fly, police officers were out on the streets on a mission: to stop a coup at Limbe Roman Catholic Cathedral.
Initially, PAC has wanted to hold its meeting at the sumptuous Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel; only for the hotel to cancel the booking, ostensibly after bowing down to pressure from government agents.
But PAC was not about to be stopped. It booked another venue, this time the spacious Limbe Cathedral Hall.
Now, Catholics are no novices to Malawian politics.
In 1993, at the height of the fight against one-party regime, they penned a letter, the famous Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter.
The letter called for political change at a time of rising political temperatures. At a time when the one-party regime was so intoxicated with power, it saw nothing but death outside the ruling corridors.
But things did change, after the Bishops sacrificial act. Their lives were in danger, but, still, they pressed on with their mission of fostering political change in Malawi.
It came as no surprise, therefore, that officials at Limbe Cathedral accepted PAC's request for space- of course, at a fee.
The meeting started today, as planned- but not at Mount Soche Hotel, as planned.
That's where the police officers rushed to today.
They were armed to the teeth. Zachimalawi got a little 'foolish', and tried to get a picture of the obese-looking, over-weight police officers, and got the just rewards: The camera, a digital Olympus, is nursing 'injuries' at Green Foto Studio in Blantyre Central Business District.
The camera was grabbed, batteries and USB card removed. It was then thrown to the ground.
The Camera repairman tells Zachimalawi it (the camera) has suffered a broken lens' motor.
But, even without the pictures, we can all imagine how an obese individual, let alone police officer, looks like!
Malawi has become more of a police, than democratic, state.

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