JB warns Malawi CSOs against ‘coup’ protests, rues aid freeze

Malawi President Joyce Banda has accused the Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) advocating for ‘Black Monday’ anti-government protests, accusing them of plotting to topple her government.

Thirteen high-profile civil society organisations (CSOs) operating under the Grand Coalition are planning to hold street demonstrations and vigils against Banda’s rule following the cash-gate corruption scandal.

But President Banda speaking during a political rally held at Kalambo primary school ground at Area 25 in the Lilongwe on Saturday said the protests should not go on as they were seeking for regime change.

President Banda warned those planning to hold protests against her administration at her resident, saying it is tantamount to a coup.

President Banda: Unseat me through the ballot not coup protests
President Banda: Unseat me through the ballot not coup protests

“If anything you should remove me through a ballot in 2014 elections,” said President Banda.

Black Monday

The CSOs are advocating for ‘Black Monday’ when Malawians will dress in black every Monday to symbolise the death of the public purse after being looted by thieves.

The Grand Coalition wants to seek a vote of no confidence in President Banda’s administration and push for an interim government if the State does not address their concerns over the way it is handling the massive looting of public resources.

Minister of Information and Civic Education Brown Mpinganjira, who is the official government spokesperson, on Monday was quoted in print media saying that the statement by the CSOs was treasonous.

But law experts argued that there is nothing treasonous in a statement issued by the CSOs.

“Government must be number one to provide this political space where citizens can freely express themselves how the affairs of the State must be run. Free speech in a democracy is fundamental and citizens must never be threatened with treason for exercising that right,” Dean of law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba, Dr Mwiza Nkhata was quoted saying.

Lawyer Justin Dzonzi, executive director of Justice Link also argued that CSO’s planned actions are not to remove the President by force, but to hold peaceful demonstrations.

Aid freeze

During the Saturday’s rally, President Banda in an indirect reference to the donor aid freeze over corruption scandal, she said it is unfortunate that her government is now been penalised for fighting deep looted corruption which has long been in the country.

“Since I came into power I have been saying that one of my major tasks was to root out corruption in the country. And I repeated the same during the Ecama (Economic Assosication of Malawi)  meeting in Mangochi whose fruits were  the arrest of those involved in cashgate scandal,” said Banda.

She said: “I want to remind all Malawians that the beginning of the arrests on Capital Hill plunder was initiated by the steps I took prior to the crackdown.

“When I took over power I emphasized on the need for thorough scrutiny of our financial management system and on September 7, 2013, I emphasized on the same in Mangochi and this resulted in the first arrests on September 12, 2013, and subsequent arrests which have now added up to 68.”

Malawi depends on donors to bankroll up to 40 percent of its development budget.

Donors under the Common Approach to Budgetary Support (CABS) have said they will not disburse pledged aid until February after an International Monetary Fund review. They have also warned that the next aid tranche depends on government efforts to fight the rampant corruption.

“We will not be able to resume support through government systems until we have a clear assurance, independently verified, that our resources are all being used for their intended purpose,” said Sara Sanyahumbi, a British diplomat who heads the donor grouping which includes European countries, the European Union and the World Bank.

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