It is common knowledge that Malawians suffered a lot during the three decades of one-party dictatorship. It came as a great relief when early in the 1990s the wind of political change blew across the region. Malawi had to say that enough was enough. Then, they pressurised Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda to call for a referendum in 1993, which ushered in multiparty democracy in the country.
Take it or leave it, the April 27 2018 national demonstrations have simply indicated that the wind of change is back in the country. Malawians are once again saying ‘enough is enough’. They are fed up with corruption, stealing, joblessness, insecurity, nepotism, favouritism of one ethinic group, etc.
All these things are happening under the leadership of President Peter Mutharika and his administration. Without doubt, the April 27 2018 demonstrations surprised many people, including those who doubted the capabilities of CSOs and their leaders. The doubting came about because of the failed demonstrations in the past, at the 11th hour.
The government cheated CSOs that it was ready to dialogue with them and come up with immediate solutions. This was never to be and instead the government just scandalised the CSOs. Needless to say that Malawians have always been disappointed with every failed demonstration. What government seems to forget is that one can cheat people at some time, but cannot cheat all the people all the time.
Preparations for the April 27 demonstrations, organised by CSOs, were punctuated by lots of intimidation from government spokespersons. Probably they thought that with their intimidation, the demonstration would once again fail. Even the counter demonstrations by DDP cadets in Blantyre on April 26 could not stop the nationwide demonstrations. The wind of change was in Malawi. Whether it was for regime change or just change of bad policies and failures of te current government, was anybody’s guess. Meanwhile, the demonstrations were climaxed by the 10-point petition to President Mutharika. These included the firing or resignation of Cabinet ministers, Goodall Gondwe and Kondwani Nankhumwa, opening up of MBC to opposition parties, re-tabling and enacting of the Electoral Reforms Bills, etc. Each of the 10 points has an ultimatum for the President to act on, failing which the CSOs have said that they already have a plan B. This indicates that they mean business for the 10 points to be addressed.
There are all indications that the government realised, too, that this time round it is not business as usual. It had to frantically organise two press briefings in a day to stop people from demonstrating. Malawians could have none of this. They were ready to demonstrate to prove that they are dissatisfied with the DPP-led government policies. Ironically, the 2011 demonstrations were under DPP policies by President Bingu wa Mutharika. This shows that there is something wrong with DPP policies towards Malawians. The suffering in the two administrations has been unprecedented in a democracy.
Just like the 2011 demonstrations, the April 27 demonstrations have sent a strong message to both the current and future leadership that Malawians might look docile, but it can be a big mistake to take them for granted. If they say ‘enough is enough’, no form of intimidation or bribery can make them change their mind to demand change. It was doubtful that after the April 27 demonstrations Malawi will remain the same. The political instability which has affected DPP as well will get worse. This is likely to be a recipe for chaotic elections in 2019.