Civil society organisations (CSOs) have set a March 2012 deadline for Malawi Government to provide solutions to problems causing misery to citizens or face nationwide anti-government demonstrations.
Leaders of the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), the Council for Non Governmental Organisations (Congoma) and the Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) said in separate interviews that government is mocking the citizenry when it says things are well against the prevailing high cost of living and scarcity of basic goods.
President Bingu wa Mutharika has been claiming he has developed Malawi beyond recognition when people are failing to afford basic needs.
But government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati has hit back at the CSOs, urging them to stop being provocative and present their issues to the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group (PCDG) team which is discussing the 20-point petition civil society presented to government on July 20.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœMarch cut off point for dialogueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
Executive director of CSEC, Benedicto Kondowe, said the CSOs resolved at their Mangochi meeting last month to opt for protests should government fail to meet the March deadline.
Said Kondowe: “[We give] government up to March 2012 to live up to its promises and demonstrate capacity to reverse the nose-dive we are in.Ã‚Â March is the cut-off point for the dialogue.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“To sum up, subject to government’s failure to give hope in fixing the mess by March, the civil society will have no choice other than to act upon the wishes of the people in staging mass protests.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Civil society will not be party to any dialogue that is not bringing much hope and so will the people of Malawi after March.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬ËœProtests only viable optionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
Congoma chairperson Voice Mhone concurred with Kondowe, arguing the only viable option for Malawians are anti-government protests.
Said Mhone: Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a task team on the ground that is evaluating options on avenues that will be employed should the dialogue be successful or not successful. CSOs are going to hold a national conference soon after the dialogue process. Progress will be gauged and a consensus on the next move of action will be reached.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Through a mass protest, Malawians may call for impeachment, referendum in order to seek new mandate, a government of national unity, or resignation of the President: All these ideas are not imported from the Western world; some have worked within the Sadc region in the case of former [South African] president Thabo Mbeki who bowed down to wishes of the people of South Africa.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Mhone said governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s use of scapegoats shows bankruptcy of ideas in arresting the current challenges the country is facing.
In his Christmas message to the nation, Mutharika blamed Satan for the challenges, before shifting the blame to opposition parties and investors a few days later.
Mhone likened Mutharika to a bad carpenter who always blames his tools.
He said the protests will have to be well coordinated to avoid loss of life and property as was the case with the July 20 demonstrations.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœDPP-led government has failedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
HRCC chairperson Undule Mwakasungula said mass action is one way of pushing for alternatives to the current problems, arguing the DPP-led government has failed Malawians and that it should accept it has lost the trust and mandate of the people..
Said Mwakasungula: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Malawians need alternatives and will only do that through mass action once again. We canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a President running away from the problems by accusing others when he is supposed to provide solutions.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“As HRCC, we concur with all those advocating for nationwide mass demonstrations to show that Malawians have no confidence in the DPP-led government. Peaceful demonstrations are part of the constitutional rights and freedoms. This will once again show that Malawians cannot be taken for granted.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But Kaliati wondered “what the CSOs are really looking for.”
She said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tell them we should not be provocative to each other. This is New Year and we should start with a new pace. They know where to channel their problems: to the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Committee.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In the July 20 petition, which formed the basis of the dialogue, protesters demanded that the President trims his bloated Cabinet, tackles corruption, addresses shortages of foreign currency, fuel, electricity and medicines, among other things.
Last week, Kondowe described the dialogue pace as slow and accused government of deliberately buying time, saying it is aware of the problems and simply has to solve them.
Mutharika said at the opening of the tree planting season in Zomba on Wednesday that government will find fuel and forex in the New Year.