Civil society organisations (CSOs) have expressed anger over the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s postponement of their ‘Blue Day’ yesterday in Blantyre after the former called off their demonstrations initially scheduled on September 7 [yesterday] to pave the way for the Blue Day.
DPP regional governor for the South Charles Mchacha said, in an interview, they decided to cancel the Blue Day to allow CSOs to demonstrate following their concerns.
Said Mchacha: “Secondly, we want to allow the voter registration exercise, currently going on in the South, to go uninterrupted.”
Mchacha feigned ignorance that the CSOs demos were cancelled a week before for the sake of the Blue Day. He further hinted on the possibility of having their Blue Day around September 20 or 21, ironically the same week the CSOs have rescheduled their nationwide demonstrations.
In reaction to the cancellation, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Timothy Mtambo, one of the organisers of the September 7-postponed demonstrations, described DPP’s move as “utter confusion”.
“What confusion! How can you want to march on a day others have already booked for and when they have given you the way, you fail to do it on flimsy excuses?” queried a charged Mtambo.
He said the CSOs are vindicated on what they have been saying all along, that the DPP decided to mobilise people to cause violence during the CSOs demos.
“Now that we are not going on the streets today, they have also cancelled their march because they know they will not achieve anything,” said Mtambo.
Another civil society activist Gift Trapence expressed shock at the news of the cancellation and accused DPP of just having a malicious desire to thwart their demos.
“We had foreseen this. We had left this day [yesterday] for them but they haven’t used it. This only confirms that the DPP was planning violence,” lamented Trapence. “They want to curtail Malawians of their freedom of expression.”
Political analysts yesterday condemned DPP’s actions, saying they amount to the suppression of freedom of association, assembly and expression, the very rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Republican Constitution.
In an interview, Chancellor College-based political scientist Mustafa Hussein said the DPP is limiting the democratic space for others.
“They are doing this by countering what CSOs are trying to do,” he said while warning that these tactics have consequences as they may breed violence in the event that the demos and the Blue Day march take place the same day.
Political commentator Rafik Hajat described DPP’s actions as being “cynical”.
“They are narrowing democratic space which is enshrined our Constitution. The cynicism of their strategy is clearly shown when they have cancelled their demos. It is a reactive policy. This is taking Malawians for granted,” he said.
By 7.30am police vehicles had arrived at Kamuzu Upper Stadium and Kristwick in Blantyre to drop off officers who were to provide security. But by 8.33am no single DPP marcher had arrived at both places; only police officers kept pouring in to strategic places.
In random interviews with the officers, they feigned ignorance of the cancellation and said they were just following orders from above to go to strategic places for security.
As time went by without DPP marchers arriving, some police officers were seen leaving their places, roaming about to while away the time.
“Some of us were on night duty and have not gone home to rest. We have come here straight. Others have been taken from other duty posts and now no one is coming for the march. It is unfair to us,” said one officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Southern Region police spokesperson Ramsey Mshani said the cancellation of the Blue Day was none of their business as their duty is to provide security.
On August 26, Mchacha is on record to have vowed at a political rally DPP’s vice-president for the South Kondwani Nankhumwa conducted at Desert ground in Bangwe, that he would not allow CSOs to hold demonstrations on September 7 in the South.