Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) boss John Kapito lets hundreds of consumers in the commercial capital Blantyre on Thursday to hold peaceful demonstrations against the economic hardships they are facing in the country.
Kapito who was joined by academic and activist Dr Jessie Kabwila and women rights activist, Seodi White presented a petition to Banda administration to review some of the economic reforms being undertaken.
The organizers amended the six-point petition to include two more points on salary adjustment for workers and the need to have permanent secretaries in government ministries.
There was tension in Blantyre with heavy presence of Police everywhere including all townships and offices, shops both in Limbe and Blantyre towns remained closed as business came to a standstill.
A walk in the two towns, one would only experience what appeared like a public holiday with a handful of people and few vendors braved the odds to ply their trade on the streets, and only few minibuses were operating.
The only visible operating institutions were banks only, which were heavily protected by armed Police officers.
Conspicuously, the law-enforcers mounted roadblocks in all roads into main towns of Limbe and Blantyre and no vehicle, apart from commercial minibuses, ferrying people to the demonstrations meeting points were barred, forcing people to walk on foot.
The parade started from Kanjedza Primary School, where Kapito and Kabwila retaliated, the demonstrations were another form of dialogue to raise concerns over the high cost of living, flotation of Kwacha, poor salaries for workers especially civil servants.
“For you to come out to participate in these demonstrations, really shamed the devil, although some are not here, but they are with us in spirit,” said the fearless Kapito.
“This is not about me; it’s about those feeling the pain of Kwacha flotation. It’s about teachers, Police officers who are paid peanuts and live in quarters called houses; they can’t march but we will do it for them. In the petition we are telling government, we are tired of Bonya [small fish],” Kapito said amidst cheers from the protesters.
Kabwila a professor at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College vowed to never stop protesting until government responds to their concerns.
“I never back off from anything I get myself into. I fought for the academic freedom till we won it, and I can’t pull out now. No money can buy me off because this is for the poor people areas who can’t afford what these people in positions and their luxurious lives, can afford. It’s for everyone who is feeling the pain of these so called economic reforms,” Kabwila challenged.
The protesters marched to Civic Centre through Kenyatta Drive road with intermittent stops along the way, chanting anti-government songs in dissatisfaction with current economic challenges the country is experiencing.
”Wakwiya ndi mfiti, wakwiya ndi mfiti…Tatopa ndi bonya, tatopa ndi bonya…..Wagulitsa Nyanja h***, wagulitsa Nyanja h***,” chanted the protesters while demanding Banda’s administration to listen to their grievances.
They carried different placards and led with vocal Black Moses, the demonstrators managed to stage peaceful demonstrations, contrary to wide suspicions and anticipations that they might spill over into vandalism, looting and teargas scenarios in a dejavu context of July 20 where almost 20 people were killed.
The Police on the other hand, managed to protect and control the tempo in a manner that will, for once, add a score on its CV, despite stopping some of those interested in townships from partaking in the demonstrations.
At Blantyre City Assembly (BCA) head offices at Civic Centre, Kapito joined with Kabwila-Kapasula and White handed the amended petition to District Commissioner (DC), Charles Makanga who was accompanied by BCA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ted Nandolo.
However, a little drama ensued when the protesters refused to enter into the Civic Centre camps, opting to hand over the petition right at the main entrances.
Apart from Kwacha floatation, demands to sell controversial presidential jet and Mercedes Benz cars used by ministers and reduction of presidential convoy, presidential and cabinet travel, corruption, declaration of asserts and bloated cabinet and executive arrogances, the petition also included issues of salary hike and employment of permanent ministerial secretaries.
“The continued depreciation of the kwacha has eroded workers’ incomes and we are demanding a corresponding level of salary adjustment to cushion them from high cost of living. When the kwacha was devalued by 49 percent, most workers were given an average of 25 percent. We are therefore, demanding a comprehensive fair review and adjustment of workers’ salaries to mitigate the continued depreciation of the Kwacha and high cost of living,” reads the petition in part.
In the petition, Kapito has given government 21 days unlike the previous 14 days to respond or face continuous protests until the raised concerns are addressed.
“These demands in the petition are grievances, frustrations from consumers throughout the country. We are expecting that our demands will be responded to within 21 days from the delivery of this petition,” said Kapito.
On the need to have permanent secretaries, the petition argued that the presence of more than one secretary in government ministries is draining taxpayers’ especially at the time when the country is under serious economic challenges.
“Such duplication of secretaries does not add value. We demand that each ministry should only have one permanent secretary. We strongly believe that one permanent secretary supported by strong technical directorates can serve a ministry much better and at a reduced cost”.
Despite the pulling out of Blantyre organizing committee’s spokesperson, Kingsley Mabalani and Chairperson Mc Xitings Mdoka the demonstrations took place peacefully, contradicting perceptions that their pull out will affect the whole thing.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :