By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
DEDZA - Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika this week vehemently dismissed claims that he is in hiding after his victory in the most disputed May 21 presidential race, insisting he has no reason to hide.
There have been reports that Mutharika had been staying in Chikoko Bay state house in the lakeshore district Mangochi, avoiding his official residence at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe because he was fearful of protesters questioning his victory as declared by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah on May 27 this year.
But Mutharika, speaking at the commissioning of the 800-hectare Bwanje Valley Irrigation Scheme and Dam at Nsekeni Primary School ground in Mtakataka, Dedza, said he would never abandon Malawi and that he feared no one.
“Some people are alleging that I have fled the country to Mozambique. That is not true. I fear no one in this country,” said Mutharika.
The country’s immediate past vice-president, Saulos Chilima of UTM Party, and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, are challenging results of the presidential election claiming that they were rigged in favour of Mutharika who got 38 percent of the vote.
The results announced by the MEC show that Chakwera trailed Mutharika by 35 percent while Chilima, who was until May this year vice-president to Mutharika, finished third with 20 percent of the votes.
Currently, Chilima and Chakwera are in court as first and second petitioners, respectively, seeking nullification of presidential election results over alleged irregularities, especially in the results management system.
A panel of five judges of the High Court of Malawi, sitting as the Constitutional Court comprising Healey Potani, Dingiswayo Madise, Ivy Kamanga, Redson Kapindu and Mike Tembo, set July 29 as the date for the hearing of the substantive case.
Ever since his victory declaration, Mutharika has only been to Lilongwe once, and spent two nights, before leaving for Chikoko Bay state lodge in Monkey Bay, Mangochi, soon after delivering a State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Parliament on June 21.
MCP legislators booed the president and walked out on him as he delivered the SONA, saying they did not recognise his legitimacy.
Mutharika amassed a majority of his votes from the Southern Region while Chakwera dominated in the Central Region and Chilima was the favourite in the sparsely-populated Northern Region.
During his address this week, the President said the election proved his earlier declaration that he would be re-elected, drawing applause from his partisan audience predominantly clad in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) blue cloth.
Mutharika claimed his challengers failed to dislodge him because they lacked the vision to take the country on the development path.
However, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and the European Union Election Observer Mission expressed some reservations. The European Union Election Observer Mission also faulted the results management system.
Just a day before he was to address the National Assembly when he was coming from Chikoko Bay, his first trip to the capital city since getting re-elected in the May 21 elections, a group of people blocked the M1 road forcing, President Mutharika to use the Lilongwe West bypass road as he was going to Kamuzu Palace.
Mutharika had been expected to address his DPP supporters at Malangalanga traffic lights in the city.
However, his plan was ruined by suspected MCP supporters who were involved in running battles with police around Biwi Triangle along the M1 road.
The people were coming from the Lilongwe High Court for the Malawi election case and at Biwi Triangle, the group burned wood and tree branches on the M1 Road.
Police officers fired teargas to disperse the crowd and clear the road.
Following the fracas, Mutharika changed plans and used the bypass to travel to Kamuzu Palace.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been holding protests to force MEC chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.
Protesters held vigils in Lilongwe while in Mzuzu, Zomba and in 14 other districts, the protests took the form of street demonstrations.
But MEC chair Ansah has said she will not resign as demanded by the protestors and rebuffed allegations made by Chilima that she favoured Mutharika in the May 21 to the disadvantage of his challengers.