Many Malawians largely ignored a nationalwide demonstration for Thursday by Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) to protest at economic crisis which the consumer watchdog blames on President Joyce Banda’s economic policies.
Many people did not take to the streets but shops, banks and schools remained closed.
Nyasa Times correspondents in the commercial city of Blantyre and the capital Lilongwe said there was heavy presence of police and not many people have turned up as it were during July 20 last year’s anti-government protests.
The consumers’ grievances include a demand for a reversal of the floatation of the kwacha; sale of the presidential jet and Mercedes Benz vehicles for ministers; reduction in the presidential convoy, minimising presidential and ministerial travels both local and international, the bloated cabinet; checking corruption and the declaration of assets by the President.
But Banda has openly declared she cannot reverse the kwacha floatation, cannot declare assets and stop travelling.The demonstration also appeared to have little impact in the northern city of Mzuzu where it was raining.
In the capital Lilongwe, activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire and Hebrew Misomali led a small number of protestors to present a petition at the District Commissioner’s office.
But CAMA boss John Kapito who was flanked by academic and activist Jessie Kabwila, lawyer Seodi White at Kanjedza primary school, the assembly point of Blantyre demonstrations, said he was not disappointed and would call another protests if prices of goods rise.
“We are actually happy that some people took heed of our call, given the political culture of intimidation in this country,” he said.
“This is not the end. We will stage more demonstrations if the economic crisis will be deepening,” he said.
Kapito claimed government had withheld the fuel price hike, saying if they will raise the pump prices, he will lead consumers to hold protests again.
“We will be back on the streets with protests when prices of goods go up,” he said.
Kapito then led a march from Kanjedza Primary School into the Kenyatta Drive through Chinyonga to Kwacha Roundabout via the Army Camp to Civic Offices to present the petition.
He said their petition gives government 21 days ultimatum to address their concerns including raising civil servants salaries.
“Failure to address our concerns, we will march again and even camp at State House,” he said.
President Banda denies responsibility for the economic crisis.
Soon after succeeding the late president Bingu wa Mutharika last April, Banda’s administration introduced free market economic reforms, including a 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha and its subsequent floatation, re-introduction of the automatic pricing mechanism (APM) on fuel and deregulation of water and electricity tariffs.
The Banda administration also crafted an austerity national budget to cut on spending in the face of dwindling domestic revenues and donor aid.
The measures were part of a prescription aimed at restoring the IMF-supported economic programme in Malawi, the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), which was suspended during the Mutharika administration in 2011.
The Malawi leader said in the short term, it is expected that the reforms will have a negative impact on livelihoods of the people.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :