This country, until last Friday, had lost the taste for protests, thanks to the deadly demonstrations that killed some 20 people, and injured even more, on July 20 2011.
Since then, parents had warned their children to stay away, parents had thoughts of their children before heading to any protest. Staying away was the more sensible thing.
Well, until Friday, when we all saw that Malawians can still brave their fears, for a good cause.
Just to have a chance to raise a voice of protest, they shouted their voices hoarse to tell an arrogant Executive that the business of running their government is being done badly.
The theme was reclaiming our destiny, but looking back, it’s increasingly sounding like a broken record; painfully repetitive.
Folks, nothing those ordinary folks from Kawale, Mtandire, Zolozolo, Luwinga, Soche East, Bangwe, Matawale, Sadzi and other corners of our major towns said on Friday is new.
It’s something we, who are honest messengers of the voice of the people, not Traditional Authority (T/A) Lundu or MBC, have been saying for a long time. It’s also the message those voters who rejected the DPP massively in the last major by-elections of Members of Parliament and Ward Councillors wanted to send.
It’s something ordinary Malawians have been saying since this administration came to power.
But sometimes, when we are up there in the corridors of power, we stop listening to voices of reason. We only hear what we want to hear.
So, over to you, Mr. President! The people have spoken in clear terms. The people are unhappy with your administration. They are unimpressed with the way the administration has allowed massive looting of the State to go unchallenged and even abetted it.
They are unhappy with the way the public purse is being used to enrich those close to the President and how ministers and others with proximity to power are operating with a certain level of impunity.
With months before the next elections, Mutharika must tread carefully. Soothsayers will tell him that those behind the protests were opposition party functionaries simply because of presence of Chakwera and other opposition leaders.
Intelligence folks might also come up with some interesting lines about some forces who might have an agenda or two— and might have pushed for the protests, that might be true or false. But this is also so true: the messages carried in those songs, chants and placards, are nothing new.
These are concerns ordinary Malawians are expressing every day hence why ordinary Malawians, tired of just musing about the incompetence and carelessness of this government, rushed to the streets to say things they say in bars, minibuses and their own houses.
Friday was a watershed moment. People would come out in larger numbers once the protest leaders call for a return to the street if, as expected, Mutharika stuck in his heels, and refuses to play ball to the petition delivered for his action.
Now you don’t need to be a political scientist to figure out that as Mutharika fights an internal rebellion within DPP, street protests against his rule now can only weaken his position and increasingly cast the former law professor as a lameduck leader.
Out of the list of 10 demands, the civil society have made, there is nothing that sounds outrageously undoable.
If I were Mutharika, instead of asking my party to rally behind me and threaten those behind the protests as would often be the counsel of party thugs masquerading as strategists, I would look at the petition as a reminder of the huge responsibility attained when I became Malawi’s fifth president.
And I would seek consensus from my people. I would seek a fresh start. I would fire those individuals whom the public is finding too toxic, before my own presidency is too toxic for the people I govern.