A group of concerned citizens yesterday took to the streets of Blantyre to protest the high cost of living and demand action from the Tonse Alliance leadership towards improving the situation.
The protest march started from Yiannakis Roundabout in Limbe through Masauko Chipembere Highway to the Blantyre District Commissioner’s (DC) office where a petition was delivered.
However, the protests started on a low note with police officers outnumbering the protesters.
About 100 armed police officers and eight police vehicles escorted the protesters from the starting point. More people joined as the march progressed.
Along the way, the protesters carrying placards made several stops where they danced and chanted songs that ridiculed President Lazarus Chakwera and asked his nine-political party administration to address Malawians’ suffering due to the high cost of living.
Messages on the placards denounced Chakwera’s local trips, describing them as unnecessary. Other messages condemned nepotism, security lapse and high cost of living.
Although the protests remained peaceful throughout, business came to a standstill in Blantyre central business district where shops were close for almost an hour for fear of possible looting associated with previous demonstrations.
The protesters wanted to deliver the petition at Sanjika Palace, the official residence of the President in Blantyre, but police blocked them at the junction of Independence Drive. They later proceeded to the DC’s office and delivered their petition.
Addressing the protesters before delivering the petition, aone of the Concerned Citizens representatives, Oliver Nakoma, said the government should show decisive leadership and address challenges Malawians are facing.
He said: “There were several promises that the Tonse Alliance leadership made during the campaign period which they are failing to address. Now, the cost of living has gone up and they are failing to cushion Malawians who are suffering.”
Nakoma, who has previously held demonstrations alongside politician-cum-activist Bon Kalindo, also said the government must address the security lapse which is forcing Malawians to live in fear.
Speaking after receiving the petition, Blantyre acting DC Tamanya Harawa promised to deliver the petition to the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC).
The demonstrations came at a time when Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter on March 6 2022 and asked Chakwera to take off gloves and ensure all concerns from Malawians, especially socio-economic, governance and corruption issues, are addressed and acted upon.
Public Affairs Committee, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and opposition political parties have previously also expressed similar sentiments.
Minister of Information and Digitisation Gosepl Kazako, who is also the official government spokesperson, did not pick up our phone calls on numerous attempts.
But in a separate interview, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said the concerns remain genuine, especially with the depreciation of the kwacha and high fuel prices.
The cost of living has recently been on a sharp rise which has lately been compounded with the effects of the Russia and Ukraine conflict.