Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) and Centre for Transformation- People Power Movement have faulted government for declaring a 21-day national lockdown – as Covid-19 continues to spread -without considering social protection measures to be put in place for those who will be worst affected by the economic impacts of the curfew.
Cdedi interim executive director Silvester Namiwa, a former State House official who resigned last year ahead of May 21 polls, said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times, that for announcing a lockdown without first telling the nation how government intends to feed the poor, who include those who live on hand-to-mouth, child and female-headed households and the ultra-poor, it has shown its inept.
Namiwa argues that by doing so, President Peter Mutharika has only demonstrated that he is a leader who either does not understand the welfare and the social-economic status of the people or does not care at all.
Cdedi has since given Mutharika 48 hours to rescind his decision on lockdown or face nationwide demonstrations.
“Cdedi is giving government 48 hours to tell Malawians how they are going to get their rations while staying at home before the lockdown takes effect. Should our call land on deaf ears, Cdedi will mobilize poor Malawians whose source of income cannot sustain them for the next 21 days to gather at the District Commissioner’s office in their respective districts and city councils to pressurize government to act on their plight,” says Namiwa in a statement.
Namiwa draws his former boss to the latest National Statistical Office (NSO) January 2019 Malawi Poverty Report, which indicates that over 51.5 percent of Malawians live in poverty while 20.1 percent are living in ultra-poverty.
He argues that this should have been enough evidence to inform the President that national lockdown cannot work in Malawi without safety net programmes targeting the urban poor and ultra-poor families.
“While commending Mutharika for taking a leading role in trying to contain further spread of COVID-19 pandemic, CDEDI finds the lockdown which has no safety nets for the majority poor Malawians as running counter to the citizen’s right to food and life.
“Until government announces measures on how it intends to feed the poor, that includes those who live on hand-to-mouth, child and female-headed households and the ultra-poor, then we will not hesitate to conclude that the lockdown is Mutharika’s deliberate attempt to kill Malawians with hunger or an attempt to frustrate the electoral process currently underway,” says Namiwa.
He expresses shock that ever since government started implementing measures against COVID-19, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led regime has avoided to consult its major stakeholders such as the captains of the industry that drive the economy, opposition leaders, Non-Governmental organizations (NGO’s), religious leaders, traditional leaders and the academia, among others.
In a related development, the political movement led by former human rights activist Timothy Mtambo, the Citizens for Transformation (CFT) pointed that the lockdown itself has consequences that will be devastating for the poor.
Mtambo in a statement sent to Nyasa Times said many Malawians are at high risk of hardship, saying government must find ways to protect the basic needs of the country’s low-income families who are now facing the impossible situation of no work no pay.
CFT fears the President attempts to use the coronavirus pandemic to circumvent the will of Malawians that is ought to prevail in the forthcoming fresh Presidential election.
“While the Covid-19 lockdown might be a sensible and practical approach towards containing the spread of the pandemic in other countries, the same cannot be said of Malawi whose majority of the citizens is in dire financial doldrums, unless measures have been clearly outlined to cushion their suffering that is bound to result from their locked ability to fend,” said Mtambo.
Apart from promising the small and medium enterprises the highly politicized Medef loan, government has not come out clear how it is going to cushion the majority of vulnerable Malawians, including child- headed families, struggling women, the youth and the elderly during this “ copied lockdown” which lacks support of our domestic laws on how it has been styled.
The lockdown will come into effect on midnight at April 18 until May 9 and President Mutharika cautioned it may be extended further.
He warned the country risks losing as many as 50,000 lives if it doesn’t act with haste and slow the spread of the disease.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :