Malawi’s former president, Peter Mutharika, has accused President Lazarus Chakwera’s government of political persecution in arresting former officials linked to the former leader. Mutharika made the comments Sunday at his first large rally of supporters since Chakwera defeated him in elections last year.
Thousands of supporters of Malawi’s opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP) braved rain to attend a rally addressed by party leader Peter Mutharika and political ally Atupele Muluzi, leader of the opposition United Democratic front in Blantyre.
The rally was the first since Mutharika lost last year’s rerun presidential election to President Chakwera.
Mutharika told the gathering that it is concerning that the Chakwera government is only arresting officials of the former administration’s party in the fight against corruption.
Mutharika said this is a ploy to silence the opposition.
“Last week, we had plans to send my two officials who are experts in economics to address a conference and advise the government on how to turn around economic problems facing the country, but before the day came, they were arrested,” he said.
Mutharika was referring to the arrest of former Finance Minister Joseph Mwanamveka and former Reserve Bank Governor Dalitso Kabambe. They stand accused of attempting to falsify documents to get funding from the International Monetary Fund.
The two were released on bail after being arrested and charged with abuse of office.
Mutharika also accused Chakwera’s administration of targeting people from the southern region and particularly of the Lomwe tribe to which Mutharika belongs.
“Reverend Chakwera, you are the man God. I am pleading with you to stop ill-treating people from the southern region. And also, you should stop ill-treating people of the Lomwe tribe because they are innocent,” Mutharika said.
Responding to Mutharika’s remarks at the rally, a spokesperson for the governing Tonse Alliance, Maurice Munthali, told a local daily Monday that Mutharika’s remarks are baseless.
Munthali also dismissed accusations of tribalism and political persecution, saying Mutharika should be the last person to say that because his administration was the champion of that.
George Phiri, a former lecturer in political science at the University of Livingstonia in Malawi, says Mutharika’s claims about political arrests and tribalism are baseless because there is strong evidence that those who are being arrested are those who broke the law during their tenure of office.
“All I can say is that Malawi is not doing well … when arrests are made of this kind, they don’t take the issues to court for prosecution so that we can justify what happened. That’s what I can accuse not only the Tonse Alliance government, even Peter Mutharika’s government did the same and even other previous administrations did the same,” he said.
Phiri said, to prove Mutharika’s accusations wrong, the Chakwera administration should be sure to take all the cases involving officials of Mutharika’s political party to court for prosecution.