Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - President Bingu wa Mutharika's reaction to the protracted university lecturers' stand off and persistent attacks from civil society leaders hogged newspaper headlines in the Malawi during the week.
"DPP Asks DPP To Fight Critics" was the scary headline in The Daily Times which quoted President Mutharika as urging his supporters to deal with his critics.
"It wasn't Kamuzu Banda and Bakili Muluzi who would go to the streets to fight his critics, it was party members," the paper quoted him as telling party members. "I want DPP to instil discipline in this country."
To say that the statement shocked the nation would be an understatement; it scared everyone, including...it seems...the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) itself if subsequent headlines are anything to go by.
"DPP Clarifies Mutharika's Remarks," was the headline in The Nation, reporting on DPP gurus 'damage control' mission.
"DPP will use its potential and every method, mental powers and any resources available to defend the president," the daily quoted DPP Secretary General Bintony Kutsaira, as telling a hastily-organised press conference. "Protecting him does not mean beating up people."
But the 'damage control' mission will be a gargantuan task because the president was unequivocal in his call to arms. No wonder subsequent headlines were condemnatory.
Under the headline "NGOs Condemn Bingu's Speech", The Nation reported that civil rights, religious and opposition leaders were united in condemning Mutharika's speech, saying it was clear the president was inciting his supporters to rise against his critics.
That notwithstanding, Mutharika was not done with his off-colour speeches.
"Mukhito Will Not Apologise", Malawi News reported, quoting President Mutharika as challenging striking university lecturers that his police chief Peter Mukhito would not apologise to anyone for summoning a university lecturer.
"Mr. Mukhito is one of the finest Inspectors General this country has ever had," the weekly quoted Mutharika as saying. "He carries out his duties with integrity and with professionalism. Therefore, Mr. Mukhito will not apologise to anyone."
But despite Mutharika backing his police chief, it seems university dons would not relent any time soon. The media quoted Chancellor College Academic Staff Union president, Dr. Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, as saying "We are shocked our chancellor, who should be the first to uphold the sanctity of the university, is encouraging the Inspector General of Police to interfere with our academic freedom."
And the stand off is spreading to other colleges. "Poly Staff Threatens To Suspend Classes" was the headline in The Nation, quoting academic staff at the Polytechnic, another constituent college of the University of Malawi, as threatening to withhold their services in solidarity with their colleagues at Chancellor College.
"We expect you, Mr. Inspector General, to make an unconditional apology to our Chancellor College colleague, associate professor Blessings Chinsinga, for the trauma and suffering you caused him and his family through police interrogation."
Former president Bakili Muluzi also made the headlines this week.
"I'm ready to die in court," The Nation reported, quoting the ailing former president as defying doctors' orders to rest while his US US$ 12m corruption case continues in his absence.
"He is not alright but he vowed he would rather die in court," the daily quoted one of his lawyers, Jai Banda, as saying. "He feels the nature of the case requires his presence and is determined to walk his last mile seeking justice."
Another blast from the past also made headlines this week. "Mama Warns Leaders To Be Tolerant" was the headline Malawi News quoting Mama Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira, life-long official hostess of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, as saying.
"Malawi has been a sovereign state for over 40 years but of late we find less and less respect among ourselves," she is quoted as telling a Christian private radio.
-0- PANA RT/VAO 12March2011