A renowned governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali has hailed the Civil Society and demonstrators for a peaceful and well patronised 27 April demonstrations but condemned the Police’s inaction on illegal Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) anti-CSO demo protests on the eve of this nationwide demonstrations.
Responding to a Nyasa Times questionnaire response on his analysis of the 27 April demonstrations, Munthali said the way the organisers of the demos as well as the demonstrators themselves conducted themselves in these demonstrations -despite DPP government propaganda to instil fear in Malawians against participating in these demonstrations – showed that not all was lost in as far as advancement of active citizenship in Malawi is concerned.
“CSOs and Malawians in all the 6 parts of the country where the demonstrations were being held must be commended for peacefully conducting themselves in exercising their right to demonstration. It was clear that the DPP government had deliberately created a hostile, intimidating environment to stop the people from joining these protests to register their grievances to the chief duty bearer.
“The parading of DPP sponsored traditional leaders, activists, and religious leaders on tax payers funded MBC, reports of a Presidential Advisor to the President paying K300, 000 to some vendors in Mzuzu to cause destruction to the demonstrations, and DPP’s illegal demonstrations and ferrying of cadets in lorries in Blantyre on the eve of the 27 April demos were regrettable acts that must be condemned in strongest terms,” said Munthali.
However, he said despite such a hostile environment the demonstrators came out in large numbers to exercise their constitutional right peacefully.
“This must be commended as it’s a clear testimony that no matter how much you try to intimidate people from following their conscience, the voice and power of the people will still prevail. And indeed we saw this in all the 6 districts where the march was done”, said Munthali
Munthali also took a swipe to bash the Malawi Police Service and Blantyre City’s Chief Executive Officer in the manner it handled the DPP’s illegal protests on the eve of the CSOs 27 April 2018 demonstrations.
“While the DPP supporters have the constitutional right to demonstrate and freedom of assembly, it’s clear that they never followed the required procedures to be allowed to demonstrate as per Police Act. Even if they were to follow the procedures to conduct their march on 26th April 2018 in Blantyre way before hand, the Blantyre City Council CEO in consultation with Police would not have allowed them to do so mindful that the following day there would be CSOs demonstrations. Such a decision would purely be made on security issues.
“However, while the CSOs in Blantyre had a tough time to get a go-ahead from Blantyre City Council CEO to proceed with the demonstrations despite submitting the notification in good time, the DPP supporters ferried in lorries invaded Blantyre in what they called ‘anti-CSOs demonstrations’ demos. All this happened without police protection – in the process causing security risks to innocent Malawians. Neither the police nor Blantyre City Council stopped these people from proceeding with their illegal acts. This is regrettable. The message one gets from Blantyre City Council and Police is that the DPP supporters are immune to regulations as provided for by the Police Act and the Constitution. Again, it also indirectly shows that the DPP supporters or protestors are more Malawian than the CSOs demos protestors. This reflects badly on the police and Blantyre city council” said Munthali
Nonetheless, Munthali applauded the Deputy Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa for his intervention in reaching a consensus with the organisers of the demonstrations to allow Lilongwe protestors to march to Capital after the Police had blocked the protesters.
“This was maturity on the part of the Deputy IG after meeting CSO’s leaders as continued insistence for the citizens to submit the petition at Civic officers would have caused much havoc considering that both the authorities and citizens were informed about the Capital Hill as the place where the petition would be delivered. Overall, the Police conducted themselves in a professional manner in all the 6 districts where the demos were being done. This is commendable,’ said Munthali.
Munthali also commended the Minister of Information Nicholaus Dausi for organising the press conference a few days before the demonstrations alongside Minister of Labour Katsaila to brief Malawians on what it was doing towards addressing some of the concerns raised by the CSOs.
“While on one hand such a gesture by the Honourable Minister of Information may have been perceived as an act of panic and desperation following the CSOs 27 demo hype, on the other hand this was a good decision in as far as democratic governance principles of responsiveness and accountability are concerned.
“Certainly, the minister and the technocrats may not have addressed adequately all the issues raised by CSOs but the very fact that the Minister had departed from his earlier statements that government would not respond to matters relating to demonstrations because he was not party to such and now humbled himself to provide updates on a number of issues including the electricity blackouts is a positive step which must be commended. However, my advise is that such updating of the state of socio-economic situation should not only happen during the times of demos but rather should be an institutionalised practice where government should regularly inform the citizens on what it was doing to deal with various problems” said Munthali.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :