Malewezi defends Malawi’s mass demo: Organizers release schedule

Former vice-president Justine Malewezi has defended the country’s citizen’s decision to hold protest demonstrations against President Joyce Banda administration’s failure to address current economic challenges, saying it’s their constitutional right.

Meanwhile, the organizers of the January 17 protests, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) have released a schedule in readiness for the much touted demonstrations currently creating heated debate across the country on the motives and justification behind it.

Malewezi, speaking in an interview with Capital Radio’s Daybreak Malawi programme on Friday, said Malawi being a democratic state, people are free to demonstrate if they have valid reasons to do so.

“Democracy gives people right to demonstrate in peaceful manner, although in the past such demonstrations had been high-jacked by violence. It’s guaranteed in our Constitution, and if those calling for protests do have a justification, then they have a right to do so,” said Malewezi.

Malewezi: Demos are constitutional right but should be peaceful

He added: “Really in a democratic system, it’s a right to demonstrate, but not an absolute right. There is a need to consider other options like dialogue before resorting into demonstrations”.

Malewezi, who is regarded as one of the country’s democratic and principled politician, has since urged the organizers to ensure there is enough security during the protests to avoid a repeat of July 20, 2011 incident where anti Bingu wa Mutharika administration demonstrations resulted into violence and vandalism, leaving almost 20 people dead.

Commenting on the depreciation of Kwacha, the former vice-president said there is a need for the country to manage its currency and put up good policies to cushion the masses from the effects of devaluation.

“Economic forces argue that the currency should be maintained at stable level. And there is a need for strong measures to manage effects resulting from depreciation,” he said, adding “. I call upon government to continue making efforts to ensure the effects of devaluation are controlled.”

Demo’s schedule

The organizers of the protests have released a program schedule, revealing the time and meeting points for the demonstrators across the country.

Speaking to Nyasa Times, the organizing committee’s spokesperson, Kingsely Mabalani said the demonstrations will take place from 8am on January 17 with the protestors converging at strategic places to petition their six-point petition to Assembly offices.

Mabalani said in Mzuzu, people will meet at Matabwa Market before taking the main road through the city’s clock tower on their way to the Assembly.

“In Blantyre we have put several meeting points. Those from Chilimba, Mbayani and close by areas will meet at Mbayani market, those from Chilomoni will meet at Chilomoni main market. Those from Limbe and surrounding townships will meet at ITG before proceeding to Kamuzu Stadium upper ground where they will join those from Ndirande then proceed to Blantyre city clock tower to join those from other townships,” said Mabalani

He said the committee is currently working on the schedule for Lilongwe to be released before this weekend.

Mabalani has since disclosed that they are currently working with Malawi Police to ensure the demonstrations are peaceful, warning those planning to frustrate the demonstrations to void creating unnecessary tension.

“We have daily meetings with the Police who have assured us of maximum security during the protests; therefore, people should not worry about violence or vandalism of any kind. But I should warn those planning to obtain injunction against the protests not to do so because that will only fire up the tempers, resulting into looting and vandalism.

“But government or any other ghost institution dares to stop us; we have our lawyers ready to challenge the injunctions. This is all about consumers and it’s guaranteed in the Constitution, I therefore don’t see any reason why somebody should try to stand on our way,” explained Mabalani.

Cama plans to hold demonstrations on January 17 to petition President Banda with a six-point petition that has a 14-day ultimatum to address the raised concerns or face continuous demonstrations.

Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) joined by Council for Non-governmental Organizations of Malawi (Congoma) and some unnamed community based organizations are citing the issue of floating of Kwacha, the need to sell the controversial presidential jet and Mercedes Benz cars used by ministers as well as reduction of presidential convoy, presidential and cabinet travel, corruption, declaration of asserts and bloated cabinet and executive arrogances.

In November 2012, Cama’s Executive Director, John Kapito gave President Banda two conditions if he is to call off the demonstrations. He asked Banda to reduce her continuous international and domestic traveling and stop aligning the local currency with other major foreign currencies.

Government has assured that it will not counter the demonstrations.

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