Business ground to a standstill in Zomba on Thursday as hundreds of protesters joined former UTM Party director of youth Bon Kalindo in demonstrating against the rising cost of living in the country.
The march followed similar protests in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Mangochi last month and early this month.
On Thursday’s protest march from Chinamwali Township to Zomba District Council offices were scheduled to start at 9 am, but people started gathering as early as 7am. Participation was dominated by youths and women from the old capital and surrounding areas.
The protesters chanted anti-government songs as they marched to deliver their petition to the district council offices. Some of them were seen hoisting tree branches while others carried placards.
In the petition, the protesters have asked President Lazarus Chakwera and his nine political-party Tonse Alliance administration to cushion Malawians from rising cost of basic goods such as soap, sugar, cooking oil and food.
Civilian as well as uniformed and armed police monitored as the protesters loudly sung and danced during the march.
On his arrival at the march, Kalindo, who was surrounded by bouncers dressed in black and covering their faces with masks, received a heroic welcome as some protesters branded him their ‘liberator.’
In his brief speech before delivering the petition, Kalindo lamented delayed payments as well as low salaries for the police, Malawi Defence Force (MDF), teachers and other civil servants.
The former Mulanje South legislator also challenged the Tonse Alliance leadership to step down as it has failed Malawians.
He specifically asked Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima to resign or face the wrath of Malawians.
Kalindo, who previously campaigned for Chilima through what was called Chilima Movement within the former governing Democratic Progressive Party, has since given the government a one-week ultimatum to respond or face more protests and unspecified actions from Malawians.
“The battle continues until Malawians are cushioned from the burdens this government is infringing on them,” he said.
Zomba district commissioner Smart Gwedemula received the petition and assured the protesters that he will forward it to the President.
In an interview, a youth Chikondi Phiri expressed contentment with the protests, saying on June 23 2020 most voted for the Tonse Alliance ticket of Chakwera and Chilima due to its manifesto of youth development.
He said: “These are demonstrations of purpose and as in majority we voted them [Tonse Alliance] into power. We will also use the same force to demand our rights.”
Another youth, who is on government internship programme and opted for anonymity, said interns feel exploited as they have spent about six months without getting their honoraria.
She said some of the interns are being chased out from rented houses while others are sleeping on an empty stomach because they have no money to buy food.
The intern further complained that currently there is a secular dated December 6 that all government departments are closing on December 23 2021 but no secular for their payments is out.
At the start of the protests, Kalindo called for peacefully protests without causing damage to public and private property.
However, when Kalindo dissolved the demonstrations some people were seen throwing stones at the district commissioner’s office and some shops around. But police moved in quickly and controlled the irate crowd.
In an interview, Eastern Region Police Headquarters spokesperson Joseph Sauka said no arrests were made on Thursday.