Memories of the July 20 2011 demonstrations are fresh in the minds of people on the streets of Lilongwe, a development that threatens low turnout of the marches, The Nation has noted.
Yesterday afternoon The Nation conducted an assessment in City Centre, Mchesi and Area 2, popularly known as Bwalo La Njobvu, where it got results pointing to a low turnout of demonstrators today.
During the visit to areas along the designated route, it was noted that police have mounted roadblocks at unusual places such as Bisnowaty Filling Station, Kawale-City Centre Bridge, Mchesi and Area 10 in readiness for today’s demonstrations.
The radius at which the roadblocks were mounted covered the starting point of the demonstrations at Winners’ Chapel Church past Nature Sanctuary to Capital Hill.
The Nation also found the presence of police at these places presumed to be the strategic entry points to Capital Hill where civil society organisations are expected to present the petition.
In Mchesi business area, The Nation found about 360 vendors trading their merchandise just like on any other day. To them, it was a normal business day that gives them bread and butter.
During the 2011 demonstrations, Mchesi was a hotspot and the vendors said they have security of their goods and property at the top of the agenda.
Mchesi Vendors chairperson Simon Robin, popularly known as ‘Nobody’, said the vendors agreed not to participate in the demonstrations because they want to protect their businesses which gives them food to feed their families.
He said: “I assure you that nobody here is interested to take part because we become victims. Our businesses are threatened because we operate in the open, so we will come to protect our business and not to demonstrate.”
At about 13:40, The Nation visited Bwalo La Njovu where few people were seen in streets which are always highly full of buyers who come from various places.
Random interviews the crew conducted with about 10 shop attendants also revealed that it was a bad day for business in the area because there were few customers.
The vendors also said they were still haunted by the 2011 demo saga where many innocent people died. n