Civil society organisations (CSOs) on Thursday staged a peaceful protest march in Blantyre and petitioned President Joyce Banda’s administration, giving it two weeks to act on the demands or face mass demonstrations.
The CSOs presented their petition to Blantyre City Council (BCC) chief executive Ted Nandolo and Blantyre district commissioner Atanazio Chibwana at the gates of the Civic Centre in Blantyre.
Before presenting the petition, CSOs Grand Coalition spokesperson Voice Mhone and others were joined by a sizeable number of concerned citizens who braved rains and marched from Kanjedza Primary School through Kenyatta Drive and Moi Road to the Civic Centre.
Mhone, who is also board chairperson of the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma), read out the petition.
Issues raised in the petition include a call for Parliament to discuss the Capital Hill cashgate, disclosure of names of companies and individuals involved in cashgate, ensuring that suspects in the cashgate are disqualified from standing in the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, disclosure of the source of the President’s maize handouts and how proceeds from the sale of the presidential jet were spent.
Receiving the petition, Nandolo assured the CSOs that he would hand the petition to Chibwana who will send it to the President.
The President is currently in Nigeria where yesterday she attended a peace forum organised by President Goodluck Jonathan. She left the country on Tuesday for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where she attended a summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
The march, which delayed to start by about an hour, attracted a number of prominent CSO leaders, including Women and Law in Southern Africa (Wlsa) Trust national coordinator Seodi White, Mhone, outspoken Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito and Malawi Electoral Support Network board chairperson Steve Duwa.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) president Mandala Mambulasa was also in attendance as was Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson Jessie Kabwila and her United Democratic Front (UDF) counterpart Ken Ndanga.
Police were prepared for the march and they walked on the sides while the marchers walked in between. Two vehicles were in front while three were behind.
The marchers carried a number of placards, some of which read: ‘JB osagula mavoti ndi chimanga, mbuzi ndi bakha’; ‘Joyce Banda, ndalama za ndege yathu zili kuti’; and several others on the issue of cashgate.
On Tuesday, Minister of Information and Civic Education Brown Mpinganjira accused some CSOs of conniving with foreign elements to conduct the demonstrations.
Mpinganjira warned that such actions would bring chaos to Malawi considering that foreigners helped to bring down governments in Egypt, Libya and Iraq where there is instability.
But Mhone challenged Mpinganjira to disclose the CSOs and donors, saying people do not need funding to come out and express their displeasure.