Why Malawi academic Jessie Kabwila will demonstrate on Jan 17

I see organizations, fellow activists saying they will not demonstrate on the 17th of January, 2013. I WILL, come thunder come sunshine, I WILL exercise my constitutional right and most of all, I want to show that the devaluation and floatation of the kwacha is negatively impacting my life, NDIKUMVA KUWAWA.

Devaluation/Floatation and the woman condition

What happens to the kwacha, the strength or weakness of the kwacha is an issue of great concern to a feminist like me. Amongst one of the many reasons is the fact that women are the majority of poor people in Malawi. Our role in the home and society, make us the first port of calling when a person is hungry, be it is yourself, child, husband, brother, grandparent or cousin or whatever relation one can think. We are expected to find and prepare food for the family. In fact, the ability to do that often defines our identity not only as women but good ones. It does not need a rocket scientist to see that current state, the falling of the value of the Malawi kwacha, is making commodities and services expensive everyday. For many women and men in Malawi, life is very hard, basic necessities are increasingly expensive.

Jessie Kabwila- Kapasula: CODESRIA role

Electricity and Fuel Price Hikes

For Malawians who use electricity, just a glance at your December bill will show you that it has gone up tremendously. Now, there is talk of fuel going up again given the change in how we are to pay for the motor vehicle license and the automatic price adjustment mechanism. Increases in the cost of electricity and fuel, push prices of goods and services, making life very hard for the consumer.

Increase Interest Rates?

Many women and poor men depend on bank loans to do small businesses. I have recently heard of arguments that point at an increase in bank interest rates as a way for our economy to recover. Even though I am not an economist, I wonder how increasing the amount at which a poor person borrows and services a loan can be a way to recover. To me, it sounds more of an impediment, a fast way to stop people from getting the loans and increasing defaulters, rather than being a route to growth and development.

 

What is our Kwacha floating on?

I find the concept of floating our kwacha equally astounding and troubling. Once again, I am not an economist but what happens to the kwacha, as a Malawian, consumer and woman, concerns me. Therefore, I will question this concept from a layperson’s perspective. I know that for something to float, it needs to float on something or else it falls. Arguments advanced so far do not show that we have the necessary weight to float on. If we do not have foreign reserves to defend the kwacha, what exactly are we ‘floating’ on? For a swimmer to float, they should be able to defend themselves from those things that want to sink it, from opportunistic diseases or infections that can weaken the swimmer, as they try to float. If the Malawi economy is the swimmer, I am yet to be convinced that it has the ability to defend itself.

Please End the Floatation

As long as the Malawi Kwacha is weakening, commodities will be expensive. We need to be careful that what we are calling the short term pains of a boil, are not signs of the swimmer getting tired of trying to float and sinking. We should be careful that what we are calling a boil is actually not the beginning of a cancerous sore.

If the current impacts of devaluation and floatation are short term pains, are we sure our economy is not short term in character and therefore cannot plough through the intense shock treatment it is receiving. Instead of shocking the patient back to life, we might severely shock the patient to death.

After all, if a patient is very ill and dying of starvation, do you prescribe a heavy meal and strong intoxicating drink all at once? If one does that to a person about to die of starvation, you will surely kill them. What are calling short term pangs that must be persevered, could be signs that the patient is suffocating and about to die. For the sake of poor people who are suffering very severely from the increase in prices of commodities and services, please end this floatation of the kwacha.

January 17 2013 Demonstrations

It is for the reasons advanced above that come rain or sunshine, I will be illustrating, demonstrating the pain I am feeling from the devaluation and floatation of the Kwacha January 17th, 2013. It is my hope that by demonstrating, I will be advancing a dialogue on this issue, helping to construct a language that says aMalawi tikuvutika, tikumva kuwawa. The more the better, alone or with company, I will be demonstrating January 17th 2013. 

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