MCP and UDF, two of the Malawi’s major opposition parties, have urged government and the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) to engage in dialogue before consumers demonstrate this January 17.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) expressed their sentiments in separate interviews on Monday ahead of the planned nationwide consumers strike.
UDF publicity secretary Ken Ndanga specifically asked government to initiate the dialogue, arguing it “has more to lose than the consumers” if the strike goes ahead.
But Malawi government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu argued that in as much as government is willing to open dialogue, it is at a loss as to where to start from because it is just hearing about the strike in the media.
Ndanga said as much as the UDF supports people’s right to demonstrate and feels that the consumers have genuine reasons to demonstrate on January 17, the party, on the other hand, feels dialogue should be given a chance.
Said Ndanga: “There are avenues that both parties may follow. In some instances, dialogue works. We would want to call upon government to initiate such a dialogue. Government would not lose anything if it initiates dialogue while consumers, who are feeling the pinch, can do whatever without losing anything.”
He said government should approach the issue “in a motherly” way instead of encouraging exchanges through the media.
MCP director of research Lingson Belekanyama also said his party feels dialogue is the only way out.
Said Belekanyama: “As MCP, unlike the July 20 2011 [anti-government] demonstrations, we are not involved in this January 17 strike, but we would want to see government and Cama meet and discuss the issues before going to the streets.”
He said at the moment, there is confusion, especially after the dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) and the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group (PCDG) collapsed without concluding anything.
On its part, the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), through its publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi, said it is only hearing about the demonstrations through the media.
Said Dausi: “At no time has anyone come to consult us [DPP]. We feel it is a consumers’ concern [and] DPP is just listening and looking at what is happening and we can say that DPP has no position on the matter.”
Cama executive director John Kapito claims that as consumers, they already initiated the dialogue after presenting a six-point petition to government on December 28 last year through the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
Said Kapito: “That was to give them a chance to come back to us for dialogue. We actually indicated that if they are not going to do anything within 14 days, then we will go into the streets.”
He also said it is difficult to push for dialogue now when President Joyce Banda has already made her position clear on some of the issues such as declaration of assets and floatation of the kwacha.
Kunkuyu, who is also Minister of Information and Civic Education, said government is willing to open up dialogue, but claimed the problem is that Cama is looking at broader issues which need the input from other CSOs.
Among other issues in the petition is that the organisers want an immediate stop of the floatation of the kwacha, a stop on foreign and local travel by the President and her Vice-President Khumbo Kachali and the Cabinet ministers as well as the sale of the presidential jet.
Other demands include declaration of assets by the President and the Vice-President and the trimming of the Cabinet. The organisers are also accusing government of covering up corruption.