The Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and representatives of small-scale businesses have appealed to President Peter Mutharika to take a conciliatory tone to help end post-election protests and tension.
Briefing journalists in Blantyre yesterday, Cama executive director John Kapito, flanked by Lewis Chiwalo representing small-scale businesspersons, observed that the recent demonstrations have had far-reaching consequences on consumers and traders; hence, the need to manage how they are conducted.
He said: “President Mutharika’s tone during his speeches is only fanning the flame of anger in people who want to demonstrate. He should rather be in the forefront of preaching peace and not issuing threats.
“These demonstrations have resulted into huge losses where consumers have failed to access goods and services. At the same time, traders, especially those in the small-scale category run by short-term loans have felt the pinch.
“This has resulted in prices going up and poor Malawians are on the receiving end.”
Besides hitting at the President, Kapito also took a swipe at Malawi Police Service and taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), saying they need to put their acts in order to minimise incidents of violence during demonstrations.
He blamed MBC for what he called programming that put opposite sides of the demonstrations to be up against each other by painting a picture that the demonstrations were an attempt to topple a legitimate government elected during the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Kapito was referring to demonstrations held on June 20, July 4 and 5 organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and supported by some opposition parties to push for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah for allegedly presiding over a flawed electoral process.
What organisers said would be peaceful demonstrations turned ugly in Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Rumphi and Karonga where some shops, offices and private properties were looted while some government buildings were torched.
During the briefing, Chiwalo pleaded with organisers of the demonstrations to put down measures to minimise disturbances to businesses. He said failing to do that would be bad for the country.
He said: “Our economy is so fragile such that we cannot afford to disturb it as we are doing now. It is businesses that have a potential of taking our economy upwards. But with the shocks that the economy is experiencing, this might send us back into an abyss of poverty.”
Kapito’s sentiments come against a background of a dialogue process initiated by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a quasi-religious body formed in 1992 during the country’s political transition from one-party to multiparty system of government.
PAC mediators team leader Archbishop Thomas Msusa said in an earlier interview that after the first level of dialogue with UTM Party president Saulos Chilima and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, the duo seeking nullification of presidential election results due to alleged anomalies, the team has extended another invitation to Mutharika.
No fresh comment could be sourced from presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani on Kapito’s accusations as he did not respond to voice calls and WhatsApp messages.
But in an earlier interview on Sunday, Kalilani said the President was “always willing to meet dialogue leaders under PAC”.
He said: “At the moment, he [Mutharika] is still willing to meet and hear from PAC’s dialogue team as he has always done.”
On his part, MBC director general Aubrey Sumbuleta asked for two hours to respond to Kapito’s accusations, but when called at the appointed time he said he would not respond to the allegations.
During a victory rally in Blantyre on Sunday, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa said he was ready to initiate dialogue with Chakwera and Chilima.