20 July victims did not die in vain – activists

Civil society organisation leaders have said late President Bingu wa Mutharika’s statements that those who died during last year’s July 20 were thieves was the  most unfortunate remarks , saying  the victims did not die in vain and that Mutharika gave police orders to kill protesters.

In a panel discussion broadcast live on Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation (ZBS), the leaders, including Martha Kwataine of the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN), also said they were not in agreement with the results of the inquiry that CSOs were also to blame for the chaos that resulted.

“The orders to shoot came from the president and the police boss. That is what caused deaths because they did not handle the matter professionally. We sought authorization to protest and were granted and it was the police’s responsibility to provide security and not cause chaos,” said Billy Maya of the Blantyre Synod church and Society Programme.

He also said CSO did not contribute to Mutharika’s death, when asked the late leader seemed to have died due to stress and overburden following events in the country and demands from CSOs.

“We did not contribute to his death and we are also touched by his death,” he said.

Warning to Banda

However, Mayaya said “we strongly continue to feel any president should listen to the demands of his people and take proper action. We are however worried that should president Joyce Banda do like Mutharika this would be the same case.”

He added: “We are worried about Banda’s sacking of public figures, seeming abuse of powers over constitutional requirements, and the way the national and 100 days celebrations were conducted lives a lot to be desired. We have also talked against her handling of Section 65 as we feel as a leader must ensure this law works.”

The CSO leaders also bemoaned the handling of finance minister Ken Lipenga’s issue.

“The investigations under the Vice President into the matter was just a cover up,” he added, saying, Malawians must not dwell much on who is ruling but concentrate on checking on check and balance institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Parliament and the Office of the President, among others.

July 20

Kwataine explained 20 July as a day that is important for Malawi’s democratic rights.

“This day is important for us to reflect on a new Malawi and how leaders can respond to Malawians. This was the start of a big change in Malawi as Malawians spoke their mind and demonstrated they can do anything required when tired of abuse. Government tried to thwart people’s views on lack of fuel, drugs, forex and it failed. What are the lessons from July 20? We are free to demonstrate and the police and politicians must work with us as are required within their sphere,” she said.

“We used our own resources to voice out against bad leadership. We did not get money from anywhere? Why did they want to stop the all-Inclusive Public Affairs Committee (PAC) meeting? Politicians should know Malawians are not stupid and can get tired. Malawians can withstand issues a long time but when enough is enough, we can act and we acted. Politicians must know Malawians spoke and will speak again,” she warned.

She added no one had weapons, but it were the former ruling DPP supporters that were armed with panga knives.

“It is surprising the police did not do anything against these panga-wielding people but came out the following day to shoot at unarmed peacefully marching people. The government then was so brutal and that regime and the police must be ashamed.”

Malawi is commemorating 20 July after 20 people died last year when Malawians protested against poor political and financial governance. President Joyce Banda attended prayers in Mzuzu where at least nine of the dead victims were buried at ‘heroes’ acre.

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