Against all odds, protesters in Blantyre presented their petition to the President, calling for the removal of two Cabinet ministers within 15 days.
Leader of the protests in Blantyre Masauko Thawe speaking at Civic Centre after delivering the petition, said the civil society organisations (CSOs) would chart the way forward on the matter if the 15-day ultimatum was not met.
He said: “We have given the President 30 days to address most of the issues we have raised in the petition. But for the K4 billion planned disbursement to MPs, we want President Mutharika to act in 15 days. It is either the two ministers involved Goodal Gondwe (Finance) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government) resign or the President fires them.”
Among other issues, the marchers were pushing for the reversal of Rodney Jose’s appointment as acting Inspector General of Police and for government to cancel the planned disbursement of the controversial fund.
The heavy police presence at day-break did not douse the spirit of the handful demonstrators who gathered at Kamuzu Upper Stadium and started their march at exactly 8.30am, chanting Za K4 billion zikutipweteka.
By sunrise, police officers stood sentry at entry points of high volatile townships such as Ndirande, Mbayani, Chirimba, Zingwanga and Chilobwe.
As the demonstrators were mobilising, over 100 police officers had already stationed themselves in and around Kamuzu Stadium area, some in full riot gear while plain-clothed police officers were also seen inside the group of protesters.
The blocking of feeder roads into the area meant the protesters were isolated and this, according to one protester, caused bystanders to fear joining the marchers.
Nevertheless, the demonstrators marched from Upper Stadium through the Chipembere Highway—stopping at the Polytechnic. They made other stops at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) bus stop and roundabout near Universal Industries.
As the protestors headed back towards the Civic Centre, hundreds of people lined up on both sides of the road but did not join the march.
Some Polytechnic students joined the fray on the return trip and nearly clashed with the police at Kamuzu Stadium Roundabout when they [students] insisted on moving around the roundabout four times to symbolise the K4 billion.
In Zomba businesses came to a standstill as many shops and offices were closed due to civil society organisations (CSO) nationwide protests.
The march started on low note with about 200 participants which included Public Affairs Committee (Pac) spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole. The heavy presence of the heavily armed police, however, dwarfed the crowd.
Sammy Aaron read the petition before presenting it to the District Commissioner (DC) Emmanuel Bambe.