Thousands march in anti-government demos—Mutharika given 90 days ultimatum

Thousands of Malawians on Friday took part in the national wide anti-government demonstrations against alleged poor governance and corruption under the leadership of President Peter Mutharika.

The peaceful demonstrations which were organized by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), were held across Malawi including the four cities of Zomba, Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

The CSO leaders, activists and concerned citizens delivered a 10 demands petition to government officials.

Among others, the demonstrators demanded for justice on the infamous K4 billion payout, lasting solutions to the power outages and the tabling of the electoral reforms bills.

In Zomba, the concerned citizens led by Executive Director of Action Hope Malawi, Sammy Aaron marched peacefully and submitted their petition to Zomba District commissioner, Emmanuel Bambe.

Bambe assured the protesters that the petition will be delivered the same day to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).

In the Blantyre, protesters led by Human Rights Activist, Masauko Thawe marched from Chichiri Upper Stadium and delivered their petition at Blantyre civic offices.

Upon receiving the petition, Blantyre City Council Human Resources Manager, Charles Mphepo assured the demonstrators that the petition will be delivered to the relevant authorities.

Among the protesters was Abida Mia, wife to former minister of Irrigation and Water Development, Sidik Mia.

“I just feel we need to support the people. We shouldn’t let the underprivileged do their work for us. We should also be here. If there was any violence-if we were to be injured in any way we should also face it,” she said.

In Mzuzu, Human Rights Activist, Happy Mhango commended people from the North for the good turn-up saying this is an indication that Malawians are tired of dying in silence.

“We are saying time has come for Malawians to stand up and shape their own destiny. We are not fighting on ourselves as CSO’s, we are fighting for Malawians and we are saying this is a very wake up call to the president and his team,” he said.

In Lilongwe, the protesters were also joined by the Leader of Opposition parties in Parliament and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, Lazarus Chakwera.

The protesters led by Chairperson of Human Rights Defenders Forum (HRDF), Timothy Mtambo delivered the petition to Principal Secretary in the Office of President and Cabinet, Chris Chiunda at Capital Hill, the seat of Government of Malawi.

The petition titled ‘Time to reclaim our destiny’, has cited challenges such as security lapse especially for persons with albinism, high cost of living, the alarming rates of unemployment in Malawi amongst youths and unaffordable fees in public universities.

In the petition, the concerned citizens expressed concern over the dwindling public service delivery in the education and health sectors as some of the challenges affecting Malawians.

“Public hospitals have shortage of drugs and public schools have shortage of teachers and learning materials,” the petition reads.

They also demanded that President Mutharika should fire the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Local Government Kondwani Nankhumwa within 20 days for their role in the K4 Billion payout.

“We demand that the disbursement of the K4 Billion dubious funds be completely cancelled within 30 days as its objective and motives were not to pursue public interest.”

Gondwe who claims the funds are for development activities in constituencies across the country, maintains that proper procedures were followed on the matter.

The protesters also demanded completion of investigations into the murder of former Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) senior officer Issa Njaunju, former Polytechnic student, Robert Chasowa and July 20, 2011 freedom fighters.

The protesters have since given President Peter Mutharika, who has ruled the country since 2014, an overall ultimatum of 90 days to address the issues or face calls to resign.

“After the expiry of 90 days we shall reconvene to evaluate your performance in relation to addressing these concerns and demands as well as the general state of governance in the country.

“In the event that we find your leadership lacking, untrustworthy and incompetent in addressing these challenges and demands, we the concerned citizens, activists and all Malawians of goodwill shall have no choice but to ask you to immediately step down,” the petition reads.

Some of the notable CSO leaders and human rights activists who signed the petition are Vice Chairperson Human Rights Defenders Forum (HRDF), Gift Trapence, Executive Director Youth and Society (YAS) Charles Kajoloweka, Billy Mayaya, Luke Tembo, Loyce Simfukwe and McDonald Sembereka.

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