"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Marchers besiege Parliament in Malawi

Thousands of government sympathisers on Monday besieged the New State House in the capital Lilongwe and held Parliament hostage in protest against the indictment motion which was introduced in the House last week against President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The sympathisers, who had petitioned Speaker of the National Assembly Louis Chimango, called for his immediate resignation and labelled the impeachment process “a coup d’etat”.
The marchers carried placards, some of which read: “Malawians ready to die for Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership”, “Atcheya tavuka na vitusi” and “Call referendum or Bingu is our leader at heart.”
The demonstrators invaded the Presidential Drive as early as 12 noon and marched to the gates of the New State House while chanting songs in praise of Mutharika and against the impeachment.
Led by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor for the North Harry Mkandawire, the marchers searched all vehicles going towards the State House while shouting: “We want Lucius Banda, we want Atupele!”
But things got nasty when the marchers reached State House gates and started smashing vehicles and throwing missiles at police who were trying to control the situation.
Some police officers were seen scampering for their lives as several vehicles, including a government one registration MG 857V, were smashed, while MP for Mangochi Monkey Bay Alinane Chipwete also had windows of his Mazda Drifter BK 5690 smashed.
Four other vehicles were smashed by the angry marchers who insisted that anyone stopped at the New State House gates should first state their name and political party.
Police spokesperson Willie Mwaluka confirmed the incident and said two men, Clifford Ganiza from Mitundu area, TA Chadza in Lilongwe and John Jere of TA Kasakula, Ntchisi, were arrested as suspects on the malicious damage of the vehicles.
The House, which sat at 1230GMT instead of 1200GMT as scheduled, failed to start deliberations after a resolution was made that government should act on the demonstrators, who were said to be threatening the MPs.
Chimango made announcements on the two injunctions against the House’s indictment process obtained by Richard Msowoya and Silvester Kasambara.
He said the Business Committee had resolved that the House should find a private law firm to represent them in the cases instead of the Attorney General Ralph Kasambara.
But the House could no longer conduct further business after it unanimously agreed to adjourn until the situation outside was normal.
After the House resumed sitting later at 1500GMT, the Speaker announced that it would adjourn to 1200GMT Tuesday but said if the marchers were not moved he would make another announcement.
Chimango expressed concern that leader of the government side seemed not to have control over the situation and said nowhere in the world “are MPs held hostage in their own building of National Assembly.”
“This issue will not bring honour to the Malawi nation,” he said.
Concerned with their security and when it was apparent that the marchers would not leave the gates before the House adjourned, the MPs asked to have police escort while leader of the UDF in the House George Mtafu suggested that the Army should be called to escort the MPs out of the premises.
But the Speaker could not comment on the petition that was presented to Deputy Clerk of Parliament Stanislaus Chisanu.
Mkandawire, when presenting the petition, said the demonstrators want it to be read in the House or they would not leave the premises.
He also accused Chimango of being biased towards the opposition.
“Honourable Chimango, you don’t fit in democracy now. We want to say in no uncertain terms that we are calling for your immediate resignation and a trial of treason for you and others who are drifting the country into a war situation,” said Mkandawire.
Mkandawire said because of the trust that people have lost on the MPs, they would no longer let them operate in the premises which also houses the head of state, adding that they should therefore move out and look for alternative premises.
When the House finally adjourned, there was more drama as all the ministers, MPs and all those attending the deliberations were forced to use a dusty road from the State House which took the journey over 10 kilometres off the normal route.
Meanwhile, some Chancellor College students have also threatened to march to Parliament on Thursday if the House will go ahead with the indictment and impeachment motion.
But Students Union of Chancellor College (Succ) chairman Steven Masiyano could not confirm the march Monday, saying he was waiting for a general assembly meeting which is yet to decide on what action the college should take on the issue. The general assembly was meeting Monday evening.

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