Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika has hired security forces from Zimbabwe to be used to break down planned August 17 countrywide mass demonstrations against his growing misrule and the deteriorating social, political and economic order in the southern African nation.
According to a State House source, most of the ‘mercenaries’ are resident at Mtunthama State Residence in Area 3 suburb in the capital city, Lilongwe, others are at undisclosed places in Zomba, Blantyre and Mzuzu reported Evelyn Chibwe for Nyasa Times.
“I can reliably inform you that we have Zimbabwean soldiers in the country; their primary reason is to help the police to quell and protests. The president spoke to his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe to provide the soldiers on unclear terms,” said the source.
He said the soldiers are in the country when it became clear that Malawian soldiers would not accept this time round to be ‘abused’ to control or shoot protesters as was the case in the July 20 demonstrations where at least 19 protesters were killed.
Presidential spokesperson Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba could neither confirm nor deny the presence of the Zimbabwean forces in the country when contacted on Friday.
“I have no comment. You can publish what you want,” Ntaba told Nyasa Times over the phone from Lilongwe.
Apart from anti-riot police who were used to put down the July 20, demonstration, the Mutharika regime also deployed scores of members of the Malawi Defence Force for the mission. However, it is highly improbable that the army will be involved during the August 17 protests owing to growing discontentment among the junior officers hence the hiring of the Zimbabwe soldiers.
Reports from the barracks indicate that most officers, particularly in the junior ranks are not happy with the appointment of General Henry Odilo as Army Commander when there were more senior and experienced officers who could have succeeded retired General Marko Chiziko.