Malawi govt says consumers peaceful protests ‘a milestone to dialogue’

Malawi government has hailed peaceful demonstrations by consumers on Thursday against economic hardships and other concerns against Joyce Banda government, saying it is the starting point for dialogue.

Many Malawians are feeling the pinch from economic reforms that have been instituted by President Joyce Banda.

The reforms, which are backed by the IMF, have “led to the suffering of poor Malawians,” Consumer Association of Malawi (Cama0 boss John Kapito who championed the demonstrations, claimed.

Speaking to Nyasa Times Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu who is also Malawi government spokesperson said he is delighted to see that Malawians expressed their frustrations in a peaceful manner.

The District commissioner and Blantyre City Council chief executive waiting for the petition…Photo Jeromy Kadewere

He attributed the peaceful demonstration to the “combination of good citizenship and good government”

Said Kunkuyu:  “Previously we had ugly scenes because the previous regime used force to block peaceful protesters from exercising their democratic right. While the administration of Mrs. Joyce Banda understands values of democracy that’s why we said from the word go that no single person will be stopped from taking to streets and we have lived to our word.”

“As government we’re happy with the conduct of organizers of the demonstrations they must be commended for being mature as they were able to control the protesters. Surely I can gladly say that they pursued their cause using legitimate means,” said Kunkuyu.

However, Kunkuyu said today’s demonstrations should not be the last day for Malawians to engage government in matters that concern them.

“This is the beginning of dialogue. There should be no gap between us and this group. We have an open door policy and if we work together, they can appreciate what can be addressed within days and [that which] cannot be addressed within such a short time. This is a new chapter.”

According to the minister, concerns raised in the petition will be addressed.

“Frankly speaking, I cannot say whether we will be able to address all the concerns or not. What is important is for both sides to sit down and find better ways of addressing these problems we shouldn’t work in isolation.

“All along we have been calling for dialogue and now that the petition has been presented I hope it’s the best opportune time to start talks in a bid to address the issues raised because they are legitimate.”

Unlike July 20, 2011 episode when similar economic protests descended into nationwide rioting and looting that left 19 people dead. However, on January 17 there was no report of violence, death or injury as a result of demonstrations. One was arrested in Zomba for holding protests without informing the police.

“I think today Malawians have experienced the rebirth of our democracy,” said Kunkuyu.

The minister further saluted the media for covering the demonstrations professionally although there were threats from the communications regulatory board Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) barring radio stations from carrying out live updates.

The congregation on their way to present the petition….Photo Jeromy Kadewere

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