Friday’s protests against disbursement of a K4 billion fund to legislators and other issues were hyped yesterday as civil society organisations (CSOs) alleged intimidation while announcing marchers’ routes.
Malawi Police Service, on the other hand, stated that it is ready to handle the protests and ensure that they do not degenerate into violence or any disturbances.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said: “As police, we are ready to see to it that the demonstrations are held peacefully.
“We are also calling on all stakeholders, including the organisers and Malawians in general, to make sure that their constitutional right to protest is exercised in a fair manner.”
In Lilongwe, the Area 2 Community Policing Forum has advised business people not to open their shops tomorrow as a precautionary measure. The forum assured the business community, however, that patrols will still be in force in the area.
During a news conference in Blantyre yesterday, the CSOs behind the protests announced that they have got clearances from local government councils in Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu, Rumphi and Karonga to parade and present their petition to government representatives.
While stating that the demonstrations will be peaceful, the CSOs accused government of initiating a propaganda campaign to allegedly instil fear among the citizenry not to take part in the protests.
But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, who is the official government spokesperson, dismissed claims of a propaganda campaign, saying: “We [government] have no appetite for that and government does not have time to disturb the demonstrations.”
Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence, one of the organisers, assured people to trust them, saying they are serving the interests of Malawians at large.
In an apparent reference to the condemnation of the demonstrations by some chiefs, he described the parading of traditional leaders to discredit the protests as cheap propaganda.
In an interview later, Timothy Mtambo, chairperson of Human Rights Defenders Forum, said the organisers will set deadlines for the issues in the petition and return to the streets if they are not addressed.
He said: “We are disappointed with the current trend of events. Our aim is to see things change. They call us babies, but that will not stop us. Movement for change should be driven by the masses, those babies.”
Through the demonstrations, the CSOs want to push for the cancellation of disbursement of the K4 billion fund and that Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural Development) resign or be fired for their roles in the scam.
The CSOs argue that the K4 billion allocation is illegal and not in the best interest of Malawians, hence the need to immediately cancel it.
Besides, the protests will also be held over continued blackouts and government’s K45.2 billion bailout to State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) without seeking parliamentary approval in 2017.
On continued blackouts, the CSOs feel Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Electricity Generation Company of Malawi (Egenco) have failed to effectively supply electricity amid purchasing and hiring of generators.
Other CSOs demands include an appeal to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the K4 billion fund and its linkage to the rejection of Electoral Reforms Bills in Parliament last December; tabling and passing of the Electoral Reforms Bills, including 50+1 electoral system of electing the President in their original form as proposed by the Law Commission and reversal of the appointment of Rodney Jose as acting Inspector General (IG) of Police. The CSOs also demand action on killings of people with albinism.
In Blantyre, the CSOs said the marchers will converge at the Kamuzu Stadium upper ground from where they will march through Masauko Chipembere Highway to Blantyre District Commissioner (DC) offices in the Government Office Complex opposite Blantyre Sports Club through Glyn Jones Road and Victoria Avenue.
In Lilongwe, the march is set to start from Winners’ Chapel through Kamuzu Central Hospital Roundabout and City Centre Roundabout to the Office of the President and Cabinet at Capital Hill.
In Zomba, the protesters will start from Zomba Community ground to the DC’s office. The organisers said surrounding communities from Machinga and Mangochi are also expected to join the march in Zomba.
During similar anti-government demonstrations on July 20 2011, 20 unarmed civilians were killed by MPS officers. Organisers of tomorrow’s protests have accused government of moving to instil fear among citizens by making reference to the 2011 protests under former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika.