The civil society organisations (CSOs) who are planning anti-government nationwide protests on Wednesday stayed away from a dialogue meeting initiated by government because President Peter Mutharika and some of his Cabinet ministers were not attending.
Government courted the CSOs to a dialogue meeting on outstanding issues but the activists gave condition that will only attend the meeting at Capital Hill if President Peter Mutharika or relevant line ministers commit to be in the meeting.
After government said President Mutharika will not be in attendance and some key ministers like Justice, and Finance will be no show, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) pulled out of the talks.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Nicholous Dausi said government has assembled a high-level delegation of technocrats for the dialogue process.
“We invited them in good faith. If they are really standing for the good of the people, they should have put Malawi first. This government under Professor Arthur peter Mutharika is committed to contact and dialogue,” said Dausi.
But HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo and his deputy Gift Trapence said they are proceeding with the protests because their demands were not met.
“The government has not met conditions that we gave them,” said Trapence.
He pointed out that dialogue has never worked with DPP.
“It is a party that is unapologetic and does not care about Malawians. CSOs have had dialogue in the past that has yielded no results. For example, after [July 20] 2011 demos, there was a dialogue that was constituted to engage the government, but nothing yield results,” he said,
Trapence said dialogue has to be in keeping with the nature of issues and concerns at hand. “Malawians will speak on the streets with peaceful protests,” he added.
Governance expert and commentator Makhumbo Munthali said he is not surprised that the said dialogue did not take place.
“Even if it were to okay certainly it wouldn’t yield any tangible results in the best interest of Malawians. It was clear from the very onset that the ultimate objective of government’s eleventh hour call for dialogue with CSOs was not to address the issues being raised by CSOs but rather to distract CSOs from holding their demos,” he observed.
Munthali said the timing of the dialogue was faulty “mindful of the fact that the issues raised by CSOs were in the public domain for some time.”
He said: “One wonders why it had to take government to initiate dialogue just 2 or 3 days before CSOs demos. Any serious dialogue requires both parties to give each other ample time for preparations and also agree on the rules of the game. All this requires time. You don’t just wake up and say we want to dialogue tomorrow on matters of public interest.”
CSOs are planning to hold anti-government protests on Friday which the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and Vice-President Saulos Chilima have endorsed.
The demonstrations, whose theme is Restoring Our Destiny, are a follow-up to HRDC’s April 27 10-point petition against poor governance which the group claims government did not fully address.
Among issues to be raised in the demonstrations are government’s failure to address worsening corruption in the country and theft of fuel worth K 1.9 billion at Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (Escom).
They will also demand the resignation of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Reyneck Matemba, and immediate suspension of the contract for the supply of gensets.
The HRDC cancelled the protests from September 7 2018 to September 21 to avoid clashes with governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth cadets who were expected to hold what they called a Blue March in Blantyre on the same day, but did not eventually do it.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :