Malawi’s Black Monday crusade starts on low key: JB in black attire

The much-anticipated ‘Black Monday’ campaign got underway on Monday but in a rather low key after citizens showed the organisers no sense of caring.

Some 13 high-profile Malawian civil society organisations (CSOs) operating under the Grand Coalition, launched the movement last Friday urging the citizenry to put on black attire every Monday starting December 9, 2013 to express their anger with government’s approach to certain issues of national importance.

The CSOs are pushing government to become more responsive to address the prevailing hardships, including taking meaningful steps to restore confidence in public finance management and donor support following massive pilferage of public funds at Capital Hill, commonly referred to as the cash-gate scandal.

However, it was not a convincing start on the first Monday (December 9) when few people heeded the CSOs call to put on black attire.

Women in black on Monday attire: Chief secretary to the Government Hawa Ndilowe bids farewel to President Joyce Banda at Kamuzu International Airport on her way to pay last respects to Nelson Mandela in South Africa

A Nyasa Times snap survey conducted in the country’s four cities revealed that many people took the day as any other by putting on their normal clothes except for a few who wore black attires.

Ironically, President Joyce Banda and her other senior government officials were seen wearing black clothes.

But her dressing was perhaps in respect of departed South African first black president Nelson Mandela who died last week Thursday.

The few who wore black clothes in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba told Nyasa Times it was just a coincidence that they were putting on black because they were not aware of the Black Monday and its objectives.

“Surely, I just love this black colour, it’s among my best colours and I did not wear it for any cause. I don’t know what Black Monday is and what are its objectives so I was not responding to CSOs call because I don’t know anything about the development,” said a middle aged working-class woman who only identified herself as Manga.

Other people blamed the organisers for poorly publicising the movement which had put many members of the public in the dark about its purpose.

However, while admitting the poor start off of the crusade, Chairperson of the Grand Coalition, Chris Chisoni who is also National Coordinator of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), insisted the campaign would continue and people would still be asked to wear black every Monday until things change.

Chisoni  attributing low note start to the new concept of demonstrating dissatisfaction.

“The campaign is still going on… the poor patronage is probably because the whole idea is a new concept and that it has to be internalized and appreciated because it is one of the strategies of civil disobedience that is bordering around individual responsibility,” he said.

Chisoni further observed that for a long time most Malawians have been used to civil disobedience strategies such as demonstrations and marching.

“But this time around we are saying we don’t want to disrupt any business or any routine work but people should show their anger and dissatisfaction over the manner in which certain things are moving in the country by putting on black clothes,” he explained.

According to the CSOs Black Monday symbolises the death of the public purse after being looted by alleged thieves.

The Grand Coalition launched the Black Monday alongside the CSTU’s presentation of the petition to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) through the Lilongwe District Commissioner’s Office on Friday, Dec 6, 2013.

The coalition also encourages Malawians and residents to unite in body and spirit to ask hard questions about the national welfare and demand accountability from the authorities.

The CSOs are also aggrieved that despite donors withholding aid over the looting President Banda continues to travel extensively within and outside the country.

Malawi has been rocked with an embarrassing wide scale embezzlement, which is linked to the September 13 shooting of budget director Paul Mphwiyo who is expected to appear before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC) to explain his side of the story.

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