I like the drama that usually unfolds between Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Blantyre City Council (BCC) when the former are planning to organise a march in Blantyre. BCC is the only council that will try as much as possible to block the HRDC’s demos in the city. While HRDC has no hassle getting permission to hold demonstrations in Lilongwe and Mzuzu, doing the same in Blantyre has been a different kettle of fish, sometimes leaving the coalition with no option but to seek court intervention.
This has been the order of the day ever since HRDC started holding demos in the city after the disputed Presidential elections to try and force the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign. Ansah is accused of fraudulently declaring Peter Mutharika winner of the May 21 2019 Presidential elections. Mutharika’s closest contenders, UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima and MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, have taken the matter to court.
So, this time around, when a group calling itself Forum for Concerned Women announced it would hold demonstrations in Blantyre, I waited with baited breath to see how the group would tussle with or sugarcoat BCC to give it the green light for the event. Of course, I was not really expecting anything dramatic. BCC has always aligned itself with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This is the council which sold the Mayor’s residential house in Sunnyside to the blue party. Shall I add that it did so at a song—K65 million. The money was part of the proceeds from the K145 million Police Ration deal. This is taxpayers’ money that one businessman who supplied the highly overpriced packed rations deposited into a DPP account but whose sole signatory is none other than the president of the party—Peter Mutharika. So the long and short is that BCC and DPP are buddies united from head to toe in vice.
For the doubting Thomases, go and see what I mean when I say the Sunnyside house was a giveaway. You and I cannot get that house at K65 million. But it is not surprising that BCC always wants to please the DPP, whose base is the South. This is also the region where 16 or 67 percent of Peter Mutharika’s 24-strong Cabinet members come from with the Centre and North sharing the remainder.
So BCC gladly gave the OK to the Forum for Concerned Women to exercise their democratic right as endowed on them by the supreme law—which accords every person the right to form, to join, to participate in the activities intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government.
But how could the BCC have turned the concerned women away with Seodi White at the helm? The lady knows how to get the most out of nothing, how to harvest apples where she only planted plantains. I am just imagining how she must have presented herself to the BCC officials when asking for permission to hold a demonstration. As an accomplished weeper, she must have first called the BCC’s chief executive officer (CEO). Then amid sobs intermingled with uncontrollable wailing, introduced herself as well as the purpose of calling. Before long, the CEO—being a man himself and not wanting to be dubbed a sadist and anti-Ansah, out to victimize women—just granted the permission. The rest is history.
The demonstrations went well with a majority of the patrons donning T-shirts labeled #IamJaneAnsah. Each one of them received K3 000 for joining in the demonstrations. Some from as far as Thyolo and Phalombe said “they took part in the demos because they wanted to express their anger that the President wife’s was being harassed.” But who is harassing her? “We were just told to come and walk.” Some said they were told they would be given money and T-shirts but they felt they were duped because they only got T-shirts.
But all said I was saddened to see hundreds of women some very old, still atop open trucks they travelled in still at Upper Stadium in the Blantyre at 8pm. The most interesting part of the whole tale is how Seodi White wept. She succeeded in making herself a complete cartoon.