Bingu threatens to ‘smoke out’ Aug 17 demo

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has threatened to “smoke out” protestors who will hold another round of nationwide anti-government demonstrations Wednesday August 17.

Civil rights groups want Mutharika to explain his personal wealth, address foreign exchange and fuel shortages and reconcile with Britain, which froze aid after a diplomatic spat.

But speaking on Thursday in the capital Lilongwe when he opened Golden Peacock Hotel by the Chinese investors, Mutharika warned civil society leaders organising the demonstrations that he will use state apparatus to crash protestors in the streets.

Mutharika: We will meet in the streets

“This government will not sit idle and watch property being destroyed,” said Mutharika.

He repeated his “I will smoke you out” threats to civil society leaders and those “perpetuating violence.”

“If the NGOs and opposition say this is a threat, yes it’s a threat,” said the 77-year old Mutharika.

He said “demonstrations like that disturb peace and also discourage tourists from coming in this country.”

Mutharika challenged that he will meet the protestors in the streets “because I will not allow this.”

“If you will go into the streets on 17th august I will meet you there because I will not allow this country to be taken over by the NGOs. NGOs are not elected there was no general elections to elect the NGos.

“Where were the general elections to elect Mwakasungula and others? I have been elected by 2.9million Malawians. I alone have the authority to run this country and I will run it,” he said.

Malawians remain frustrated by a lack of foreign exchange and fuel despite stellar growth statistics.

Mutharika has presided over six years of high, aid-funded growth, but the sheen has come off this year as he has become embroiled in a diplomatic row with the UK, Malawi’s biggest donor, over a leaked embassy cable that referred to him as “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.

The cable led to the expulsion of the UK ambassador and Malawi’s representative in London was sent home. Aid worth $550 million (£335m) in the next four years was suspended.

The freeze has left a hole in the budget of a country dependent on handouts for 40 per cent of its revenues, and intensified a foreign currency shortage that threatens the kwacha, which has been devalued against the dollar by 10 percent.

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