Jan 17 Demos: Kapito shining, Govt shaking, Malawians shunning

Historically, Malawians have long been believed to be generally quiet. Quite unexpectedly, the last days of late Bingu wa Mutharika administration ingrained in Malawians a different, largely unMalawian doctrine, if you like–that is, the belief that demonstrations is the solution.

Ever since, the demonstrations discourse has become so much of a catchword than simply a linguistic phrase in Malawi’s nascent democracy. It should be little wonder then that every single misunderstanding in companies, government departments, and organizations has demonstrations as the answer. To this fact, reports that siblings in family x have staged a demonstration demanding grocery allowance from their guardian would be normal sometime in the near future.

Now, the father of demonstration discourse seems to be John Kapito, the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) boss. The man, who embodies the true meaning of advocacy and participative democracy in all fairness, is leading a campaign for Malawians to stage demonstrations on January 17th 2013.

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Surely, the Jan 17th demonstrations have put Kapito in a coveted media and political spotlight. Cut loose, John Kapito is shining. With exceptions of the CAMA boss, Bingu wa Mutharika’s death has truly shown how much of cowards Malawi’s then human rights defenders are. More importantly, it has also given, of course on the political level, free lessons as to why there is need for treating the mistakes of a preceding government as first hand field data to inform government of the day in similar situations.

Today, human rights defenders have had their cacophonous voices irrevocably muted not by ill healthy or, God forbids, death but by cheap political guarantees in the form of carrots.

But, hey! It is interesting to note that the 6-point petition John Kapito gave the Joyce Banda administration has sent shivers down the government spine. Perhaps that explains why every single moment government officials are busy demonizing the CAMA boss. The government seems to have everything in control.

In addition, though tactlessly, the government is buying the sympathy of Malawians to give deaf ears to Kapito calls for mass demonstrations. It is here that one wonders: “why government is using every available opportunity to beg for people’s patience if at all John Kapito has no genuine issues for mass demonstrations? Aren’t Malawians intelligent and knowledgeable enough to know whether or not Kapito has good issues worth staging mass demonstrations?”

The JB government is miserably failing on its considered agenda to tarnish the image of the CAMA boss. It is busy with Kapito as if Kapito will go knocking to each and every single house forcing its occupants to go out and participate in the mass demonstrations.

Observing the recent conduct of government on the January demonstrations convinces the serious citizen that government is obviousy panicked with the January 17thdemonstrations. By extension, this panic by government is enough reason to believe that probably the CAMA boss has serious enough issues that government knows need attention.

That John Kapito has issues is for the wiser readership to discern. What is of interest, however, is the reported low interest from Malawians to participate in the mass demonstrations. One may be true in arguing, as is always true of governments, that the government might have dangled a carrot to these people.

True as it may, that argument does not tell the whole truth. The other side of the truth might be that Malawians are now ‘awake’ and that therefore they know when they are used as pawns on the political chessboard. And, frankly speaking, the mass demonstrations called by the CAMA boss and Co. has every tell-tale of an arranged plan to use the masses for the organizers to buy for themselves favors from government.

It is common knowledge that organizers of such demonstrations are, at best organizers, and at worst, reapers of the fruits of the demonstrations. It is also important to note that they rarely physically participate as they mostly direct the proceedings of such demonstrations through phones, and sometimes they do so at the comfort of their homes. It is the local man, our uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and friends who suffer the hardships of such demonstrations and its attendant miseries.

Given the above, it is concluded here that three things are clear from the January 17th demonstrations: John Kapito is shining, Joyce Banda government is shaking, and Malawians are shunning. And the solution is; genuine and practical dialogue.

* Henry Chizimba is Interim Director, Walking With The Youth organization.The views expressed are those of the author and not the youth organization.

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