In a dramatic turn of events, the Blantyre City Council (BCC) has given consent to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to hold its Blue Day in the City on Friday September 7 208, the same day some civil society organisations (CSOs) plan to hold anti-government protests.
The consent letter to DPP, which we have seen, comes barely a week after DPP regional governor for the South, Charles Mchacha, warned that he will not allow the CSOs to hold protests in the region.
Speaking during the party’s rally last Sunday at Bangwe in Blantyre, Mchacha told the CSOs not to conduct the protests in the South, claiming that Malawians were tired of demonstrations, saying “they serve selfish interests of the organisers”.
This also comes at a time when leaders of CSOs organising the protests, under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), wrote BCA, demanding information on how it sold the mayor’s house to the ruling DPP.
According to the letter from BCC to DPP’s Mchacha, dated August 22 2018 and signed by chief executive officer Alfred Chanza, the ruling party will also hold rallies at Chitawira ground and Chichiri Upper Stadium.
It reads: “We are pleased to inform you that permission is hereby being granted for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to hold a Blue Day from Kristwick on the Masauko Chipembere Highway to Chitawira Primary School ground via Chichiri Roundabout, Moi Roundabout through Kenyatta Drive to Chitawira on Friday 7th September 2018.
“This permission also covers the DPP public rallies at the Upper Stadium (Chichiri) and Chitawira Primary School ground on the same day as per your request. Please note that the permission is granted on the condition that the parade and the rallies shall take place on the stated date, locations/route and venues.”
Ironically, the HRDC were supposed to start marching from Chichiri Upper Stadium via Masauko Chipembere Highway and then deliver the petition at the Blantyre district commissioner’s office.
In interview, Chanza confirmed granting the DPP permission, saying they were the first to ask for it and could, therefore, not grant the same to late comers.
“It depends on who comes first to seek permission. Actually, on the same day, the Seventh Day Adventist church also wanted to have an activity, but they came late, so we granted it to the DPP because their request came earlier,” he said.
The decision has, however, not amused HRDC, with deputy chairperson Gift Trapence calling the action undemocratic.
“We will not be intimidated by this impunity. We were the first people who informed them. We know Blantyre City chief executive is following orders from DPP party as evidenced from what Mchacha said in Bangwe during their rally. We will go ahead with our demonstrations even if it means going to court we will take Blantyre city to task to make sure that Malawians right to freedom of assembly is respected,” he said.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the law enforcers only get a notification from councils on an entity granted permission to hold a march.
As such, he said the BCA was better placed to explain the Blantyre situation.
According to an earlier communiqué from HRDC, among the issues to be raised in the upcoming demonstration is government’s failure to address worsening corruption in the country.