Malawi rights campaigners on Thursday held peaceful anti-government protest in the commercial hub Blantyre to press for quick action after an audit revealed officials had stolen at least K13 billion ( $30 million) from the state the corruption scandal which has been christened as cashgate.
Hundreds braved the chilling weather to join leaders of Grand Coalition for the Defence of Democracy and the Constitution, which represents more than 200 local and international organisations, to march in the streets and presented a petition to Blantyre City CEO Ted Nandolo who will forward it to President Joyce Banda, who is away for a summit in Nigeria.
Voice Mhone, leader of the protest organisers said after reading the petition that they are demanding full disclosure of “all suspects” in the cashgate scandal for the sake of “transparency and accountability”.
The government has not released names of those accused for fear of prejudicing ongoing or future trials. There are 68 civil servants and business people already facing trial for graft.
“The right to privacy and fair trial cannot supersede the right to life of Malawian citizens that have continued to suffer due to cash-gate. Within two weeks, therefore, this must be presented to the Malawian nation,” said the petition.
The activist also demand that Parliament “convene immediately to deliberate on the Preliminary Forensic Audit Report (FAR), the sale of the Presidential jet and the continued politicization of maize and other hand-outs using public resources.”
They demand legislatures to meet “within two weeks.”
The activist are also demanding that within two weeks, a full investigation into the continued politicization of maize distribution to political party supporters and People’s Party (PP) parliamentary aspirants.
“We need a clear position as what is the source of the funds that procured this maize, where was this maize bought or donated from, was it donated to government or a political party, is it fair and just that during this campaign for 2014 elections, one political party should be distributing maize to the hungry using party functions and party leaders and structures, is it fair to those that do not belong to this party hence have no chance of getting the maize,” reads the petition in part.
The activists also demand that all those suspected to be involved in the Cash-gate scandal – including key suspect Oswald Lutepo – who are seeking to run as representatives in the forthcoming tripartite elections be disqualified.
“The desire of the nation for transformative leadership cannot be realized with such suspects being put into leadership positions. The nation must not be held at ransom by those already suspected of abuse of our public resources for personal gains,” reads the petition.
The rights groups also demand that President Banda and the Reserve Bank Governor and all controlling officers, those that deliberately abdicated from their due responsibility take full responsibility for Cash-gate as it happened on their watch.
The also seek a national apology to be made now whilst the other proposed steps are being pursued
Nyasa Times correspondents said there was heavy presence of police and not many people turned up as it were during July 20 2011 anti-government protests during the DPP regime.
Lucky Mbewe, spokesperson of the Grand Coalition said the Thursday protests were a launch of “a series of civil disobedience processes to be rolled out nationwide.”
He told Nyasa Times: “If there will be inaction to our demands, there will be mass action.”
Billy Mayaya one of the organisers said the number of protestors did not matter but the message they have put across, saying indeed there will be “series of protests.”
Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira suggested the coalition was being bankrolled by Western “elements who want to topple the government”.
“They have destroyed Egypt and other countries, they now want to destroy Malawi,” Mpinganjira said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :