Armed Police in Mzuzu on Sunday stopped the launch of the newly registered People's Development Movement (PDM) a move that has angered its members and has attracted condemnation from political commentators.
According to the party's publicity secretary, Msenga Mulungu, police started intensifying their presence at Katoto Freedom Park, where the party was scheduled to launch, early on Sunday morning and at around 8AM ordered the platforms to be disbanded.
"They said they had orders from the Mzuzu City Assembly to stop the launch because the party was not registered and thus not supposed to stage any rally in the city," said Mulungu.
Mulungu wondered why the City Assembly could make such allegations when the party [PDM] has a certificate of registration issued by the Mzuzu High Court, Mulungu further alleged that the City Assembly was dabbling in the affairs of the court.
A letter from the city assembly said in part that the party should not hold any gatherings in the city whether on developed or undeveloped land and ordered all police officer to be on guard.
Mulungu said he tried to talk to City officials but didn't manage to convince them as they argued that the State, through the registrar of Political Parties, was still contesting the legality of PDM to the effect of getting a stay order that will calumniate into a court hearing slated for January six.
"The hearing is on 6 January that mean before that we are a legal party and we have our certificate," said Mulungu.
Mzuzu City Assembly Chief Executive, Richard Hara, refused to answer any questions saying he was on Holiday.
Mzuzu Police Spokesperson, Norah Chimwala also couldn't say anything and said she needed more time to find out what happened.
Commenting on the development, Mzuzu University's history lecturer and political analyst said that the disruption of the party launch was "sad for democracy."
"It is undemocratic and unconstitutional. The Malawi Constitution provides for freedom of association for every citizen after all the party is registered by the court," said Mbowela
Mbowela however said that they may be some procedure that was flouted by PDM that could render the disruption of its registered justified and said PDM ought to have cleared issues with the city officials.
"...but if everything was done then such actions may confirm other people's fears that the country is being governed in an MCP regime style and shows that the current government [DPP] doesn't want other parties coming in and gaining momentum," said Mbowela.
PDM has attracted many members including Harry Mkandawire, Loveness Gondwe and Richard Msowoya and the launch was to be graced by members from across the country.PDM and government have been at daggers draw since the party applied for legal status. Its initial application was refused because it was openly critical of the Quota system, a revised application was turned down again and the registrar of political parties stopped responding to the applicants prompting them to forcibly register the party through the High Court on November 5 last year.