President Peter Mutharika says it is “wishful thinking” for civil society organisations (CSOs) planning the April 27 demonstrations over the K4 billion allocation to legislators and other issues to expect him to personally receive their petition.
Through presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani, Mutharika yesterday said he was not party to the demonstrations and will, therefore, not be party to anything associated with them.
Said Kalilani: “It is wishful thinking. Anyway, the President is not part of the planning group on how the so-called demonstrations shall go about.
“If the planners say they shall hand over their petition to the President in person, only them [the planners] can explain what they mean by that. Otherwise, in as far as the State House is concerned, the President is not part of their [demo organisers’] plan.”
But the CSOs maintained yesterday that the protests are a March of No Confidence and challenged the President to prove them wrong by being courageous enough to face the citizenry and personally receive the petition.
Human Rights Defenders Forum chairperson Timothy Mtambo, who is leading CSOs organising the protests, said they have previously delivered many petitions through other channels to Mutharika, but they have not seen any change; hence, the decision to deliver the petition direct to the President this time around.
He said: “Mutharika is our President, our servant and employee. So, as employers, we want to deliver our concerns direct to our servant.
“There is a contract between the President and citizens and that his powers are delegated powers by us and that they [the powers] can only be sustained on trust.
“If Mutharika does not want to receive the petition, then we will know that he is not a leader enough. What is this kind of a leader who always runs away from his people? He does not want to face Parliament for questions, yet he also runs away to face citizens? Can we say he is a coward or what?”
Mtambo insisted that there was nothing wrong with the CSOs and the citizens demanding that Mutharika should receive the petition.
He said: “The Malawi Constitution is clear on this. It is now time that we should stop treating a President as God. He is our servant. Many times he has refused to face Parliament to respond to some questions and if he refuses to receive our petition, then we will really know what kind of a leader we have.
“Leaders should never run away from their people. If he is a democrat, we will see him on the 27th. We have alerted the district councils as required by law and we expect that as government authorities, they will pass the information to the State House.”
In an earlier statement, the CSOs said their decision to stage protests follows inconsistencies, illegality and suspicions that characterised the K4 billion ‘miracle money’ pay-out that raises governance and accountability questions.
Through the demonstrations, which the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and others are supporting, the CSOs are demanding cancellation of disbursement of the K4 billion fund and the resignation of Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural Development) over their roles in the scam.
The demonstrations are set to be held under the theme For How Long Shall Malawians Continue To Be Taken for Granted? Loss of Public Trust in the Current Administration: Time to Reclaim Our Destiny.
The CSOs argue that the K4 billion allocation is illegal and not in the best interest of Malawians; hence, the need to immediately cancel it.
The groups also want the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate allegations that government bribed some MPs from opposition parties to frustrate the Electoral Reforms Bills through rejection, abstaining or absenteeism during last November sitting of Parliament.
Besides, the protests will also be held over continued blackouts and government’s K45.2 billion bailout to State produce trader Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) without seeking parliamentary approval in 2017.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has also been challenged to free taxpayer-funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and act on all proposed reforms by PAC and the Law Commission’s report on the review of electoral laws (2017).
The K4 billion issue—that initially saw 86 legislators mostly affiliated to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its working partners getting about K40 million each—came to the fore during the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting in Parliament in February.
But Nankhumwa clarified that both sides of the House decided to distribute the money equally, meaning that each of the 193 legislators would now receive K20.7 million.
However, the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) later made a U-turn, saying it does not want to be party to the fund.
On the protests day, protesters in Lilongwe will march from the Lilongwe Community Centre ground through Mchesi and Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout via Lingadzi roundabout and Parliament Building to Kamuzu Palace, the official residence of the President.