CSOs warn of nationwide demos

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), which organised a nationwide demonstration last April, have threatened to stage another demonstration on September 7 this year over perceived poor governance and arrogance by President Peter Mutharika’s government.

The CSOs made the announcement in Lilongwe on Wednesday, August 15 2018, saying Mutharika and his government have shown arrogance by only responding to 10 percent of the pressing national demands in the petition that captured why the April 27 demonstrations were held.

Previous demonstrations organised by CSOs

Addressing members of the press, five members of the Human Rights Defenders’ Coalition (HRDC) –Gift Trapence, Timothy Mtambo, MacDonald Sembereka, Billy Mayaya and Beatrice Mateyo—accused the President of lack of integrity and a failure to govern the country.

They called for the President to resign on his own, or to be impeached, for a gross violation of the Constitution and abuse of office, as many national ills are happening under his watch.

They also demanded the immediate resignation of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general, Reyneck Matemba, accusing him of being partisan in handling high profile corruption cases.

In their April 27 10-point petition, the CSO leaders made several demands which included Mutharika to fire ministers Goodall Gondwe (Finance, Economic Planning and Development) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural development) allegedly for gross incompetence and questionable decisions.

But in its response to the petition, on July 9 this year, the government stated that it is doing its best in fighting corruption, trying to end power blackouts and upholding good governance, among issues queried in the petition.

But reading from a prepared statement, the CSO leaders made fresh demands which included;

·        That the K145 million ‘gift’ the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) recently returned to Pioneer Investment businessperson Zamir Karim, after a police food ration scam was exposed, be return to Malawians through the government. The demand added that Karim and all police officers implicated in the scam be arrested and prosecuted.

·        That after Matemba resigns immediately, allegedly for shielding corrupt suspects from prosecution, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee should summon Matemba to explain his actions over the recent high profile cases which his bureau is handling.

·        That top officials at the Electricity Supply Commission (Escom) be immediately dismissed for mismanagement of the public institution.

·        That whistleblowers at Escom and at any government or private entity be protected, as a means to fighting corruption.

·        That there be an immediate suspension of the contract to supply gensets to Escom and Egenco (the Energy Generating Company), pending investigations into the awarding of the contract and procurement of the controversial gensets.

·        That there be an immediate end to the practice of nepotism in appointments of senior government positions and:

·        That there be an immediate reconvening of Parliament to impeach Mutharika “for gross violation of the Constitution and oath of office”.

On the way forward, the CSO leaders gave notice to the President that they would a series of actions to force his administration to make concession that will make Malawi a better country for all.

They pointed out that the Constitution clearly states that those govern do so on behalf of the people, based on a social contract cemented by Section 12 (c) and Section 6 of the Constitution.

“We believe that this social contract has been breached wantonly and we call upon Malawians from all walks of life to join us in coordinated peaceful protests to show our displeasure over the issues raised in this communication. The demonstrations will be on 7 September, 2018,” concluded the statement that listed 22 organisations and individuals backing it.

However, Mutharika’s press secretary and spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani described the demand to either have the president impeached or to let him step down as wishful thinking.

He said he had already told The Nation that there is no justification for the President to resign, especially in connection with the K145 million saga because the President did not benefit directly from it.

He added: “The CSOs’ opinion in this matter is consistent with their hate-driven advocacy against the President and the DPP administration. They have been calling upon the President to resign from as early as his first month in office; so, there is nothing new about those calls,” he said.

In an interview Matemba said the CSOs should follow the right procedure to get him fired, than rushing to the media, adding that in his 17-year experience in government, he is proud to be part of the  dedicated workers at ACB..

He said: “I am happy that they have targeted me and not my officers. I have worked in different government institutions over the past 17 years, but I have never seen a group of officers so hardworking, very committed and dedicated to their work as ACB officers.

“The sacrifices that these officers make serve the people of Malawi beyond measure. As for me, I will say let the CSOs follow the right procedures for my removal, I will gladly leave,” Matemba added.

The CSOs have been giving Mutharika several ultimatums, asking him to step down or that he be impeached.

Some analysts have, however, told the CSOs to re-strategise in their actions and calls, saying some of their demands are not practical.

Mzuzu University political analyst George Phiri said: “The problem with CSOs is that they just give the ultimatums, but they don’t clearly understand how things work in government. You can’t just wake up in a day and propose things which are not possible for the presidency.

“They need to strategise and see to it that what they are proposing can go through, instead of always proposing things which don’t materialise,” he added, advising that CSO leaders need to consult more strategists in their planning.

Another political analyst, Nandin Patel, said even though the grievances that CSOs present are genuine, they need to review how they set their timelines.

For instance, she said the timeline to make the president resign is not practical saying they just need to wait until the general elections.

She said: “Some of the timelines are impractical. The best they should do is wait for elections and change the regime through the vote, otherwise there won’t be anything that can happen.

“On dragging the President to court, I think it’s a hurried thought. They should ask themselves first whether they have exhausted all the possible ways before coming to the conclusion of dragging the president to court. Have they consulted all the responsible bodies before doing that? They should consider that,” she said.

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