As the clock ticks to January 17, the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has urged Cama to cancel its planned demonstrations, arguing there are better ways to resolve the people’s suffering and that the events may be hijacked by “unforeseen negative influences”.
The MCC has also urged Malawi Government and its leadership to listen to the people’s concerns “by not dilly-dallying to engage the people’s representatives in constructive dialogue.”
Meanwhile, the Council for Non-Government Organisation (Congoma) has called both government and the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) to ensure peaceful demonstrations.
Cama executive director John Kapito has maintained the demonstrations will proceed as planned.
In a statement released over the weekend, MCC secretary general the Reverend Dr. Osborne Joda-Mbewe said: “MCC categorically states that the church is not in support of the demonstrations, at least for now, as dialogue still has a greater chance in resolving the matter at hand…MCC emphatically calls for the dismissal of the demonstrations.”
Said Joda-Mbewe: “The council wishes to draw lessons from the 2011 mass demonstrations where innocent lives were lost and property worth millions was destroyed. As the church, we are worried that the otherwise peaceful demonstrations may turn violent, thereby threatening the lives of innocent people and their property.”
MCC is a fellowship of 24 Protestant member churches and 20 para-church affiliates.
Joda-Mbewe acknowledged that the suffering of the people has gone too far and deep and that government must start to take noticeable and strong measures to address the issues.
Joda-Mbewe, however, urged Malawians and all stakeholders to continue demanding for transparency and accountability in set austerity measures such as the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).
On Friday, some of the organisers of the demonstrations, including the committee’s spokesperson Kingsley Mabalani, announced that at least 10 out of the 20 known members of the initiative have withdrawn from the planned demonstrations, saying they would want to give dialogue a chance.
In another statement, Congoma chairperson Voice Mhone has called upon both government and Cama to ensure that the planned actions are within the law and without collateral loss of property or life by desisting from inflammatory public statements, unduly withholding or untimely provision of or abuse of State machinery and sponsoring counter demonstrations.
Said Mhone: “We are disturbed by statements suggesting that Mr. John Kapito [executive director of Cama] should be arrested. We take this as extra-judicial manipulation and abuse of State machinery to intimidate and suppress dissenting views. These executive outbursts are insensitive; against democratic tenets; retrogressive, counterproductive and uncalled for and must stop.”
In the statement, released over the weekend, Congoma maintains its support for the mass actions and wonders if government, with such actions, has learnt from the past when such tactics did not work.
He also called on security providers to play their rightful roles to ensure that a legal cause is free of side events. He called on Cama and police to plan jointly the security needed.
Said Mhone: “Congoma cherishes non-personalised, mature, peaceful and unarmed demonstrations. We do not need to remind each other of the July 20, 2011 ugly scenes.”
He said Congoma supports Cama as its member to lobby for conducive political environment; provide advice where necessary; monitor any eventualities to ensure that Cama acts within the laws of Malawi and within the NGO Code of Conduct.
But Mhone said despite such a stand, Congoma still strongly believes that the implementation and monitoring of the dialogue resolutions premised on the July 20 2011 petition is a more robust, broad-based and systematic way to address the concerns in a more sustainable way.
Mhone also said participation of all NGOs will be left to individual institutions to make their own decisions.
Reacting to the developments, Kapito has maintained that the demonstrations are a consumer issue with Cama being on the forefront as a body with a mandate to defend consumers.
He told The Nation Cama has not approached any organisation to be party to the demonstrations, but that all institutions are coming in either as consumers or in support of the cause on their own conviction. Kapito said with or without support of other institutions, the consumers will still go ahead with the demonstrations as planned.
Said Kapito in an interview on Sunday: “Dialogue can be done in several ways and demonstrating is also dialogue.”
Kapito also expressed concern that those that are advocating dialogue, including the church, have not formally approached Cama.
“We are not inviting any institution. We know our constituents, who are consumers and the church has its own constituents,” he said.