Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, who is also government spokesperson, gave a very evasive answer when asked about the cushions put in place to protect the poorest and most vulnerable of society during 21-day coronavirus lockdown period.
Malawi’s government was expected on Friday to announce support measures for the poor during the lockdown but the presser on that was cancelled.
The cancellation of the announcement came hot of the heals of High Court granting Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HDRC) an order blocking the government from effecting the lockdown meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 at least for seven days.
But during an interview with BBC Focus on Africa programme, Botomani was clearly – and purposely – evasive when asked to outline the specific measures to cushion the people from the loss of livelihood during the lockdown.
Botomani told BBC that as all non-essential businesses and services were to cease operating during the lockdown, which was due to end on May 9, “government has been working on a package to specifically deal with the informal sector.”
Asked by BBC’s Audrey Brown to give ideas on measures that government has put in place to help people overcome the difficulties they would be experiencing in the coming weeks, Botomani was not clear on specifics.
“We were to announce the package that was specifically targeting people from the informal sector,” he said.
Quizzed on what is in the package, Botomani said: “We are putting up a lump sum, a sum of money, so that during this time we could be able to give out to groups of people.”
The minister continued: “You must also understand that we have social cash transfer, government has been implementing this program for some time now.
“Just recently we just paid for four months the people that live in rural areas as well in towns, the poor of the poorest”
Small-scale traders, often young people, had been staging protests in the three major cities against the lockdown plan, carrying placards declaring that it would be better to contract the virus than die of hunger because they are unable to work.
Most of those protesting called on the government to provide them with cash and food hand-outs if a lockdown went ahead.
So far Malawi has recorded 17 cases of Covid-19 with two deaths. The ministry of health has announced that three people who earlier tested positive have now tested negative but will re-do the tests.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :