So, on Thursday, a group of civil society organisations (CSOs) took to the streets in Lilongwe and presented a petition to Parliament. Among other things addressed in the petition is the call to end corruption, impunity, nepotism, electricity/water shortages and the need for government to turn around the collapsing economy.
I commend the organisers of the march for taking such a brave action. The demonstrations to me symbolised the pain and despair that characterise life for many Malawians. Bravo to all those who left their work or business and walked the distance to deliver the petition.
I mostly followed the march on social media. There were posts and pictures of the marchers. The placards they carried had powerful messages. I am glad that there are people out there who are constantly reminding those in authority to do their job.
However, I was sad that the security officers almost outnumbered the marchers. There were only a handful marchers that some had to carry two placards. Billy Mayaya, one of the organisers of the march, said it was more about the spirit and not the numbers. I agree but, numbers, too, are significant.
I commend the CSOs for the march but I have my own misgivings at the lack of focus in as far as the underlining theme for the march is concerned. Yes, everything is wrong in Malawi, but you can’t march for everything at one go. The CSOs needed to trim the topics to size to avoid losing focus.
For instance, focus on demanding that George Chaponda, allegedly involved in the maize scam, to be arrested. It is hard sometimes to follow through an argument if you touch on almost everything. Yes, I know the CSOs might have done so thinking that there may be no next time. However, it helps in selling your idea if you have one idea to focus on rather than several incoherent ideas.
I know everything is wrong in this country which gives one the temptation to bite on almost everything at once, but, focus would help. It helps people to buy in the idea, understand and see logic in what you are saying. Again, next time ensure that you have promoted the demos in good time and not doing it haphazardly. Maybe, more people will be attracted to join. Of course, I am bearing in mind the fact that Malawians love to stalk behind closed doors. They fear their own shadows.
All in all, bravo for the peaceful demos!
- The article first appeared in Nation on Sunday newspaper.