By Enock Balakasi
Thousands of Lilongwe residents led by activists under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), turned up on the streets of the capital on Friday to protest against what they describe as bad governance, worsening corruption and theft of public resources in the country.
Stalked by heavily armed police officers, the marchers started off at Lilongwe community ground, passed through the high density area of Mchesi, turned at Kamuzu Central Hospital round about into the city centre and stormed through it to Capital Hill.
The demonstrations held under the theme ‘Restoring our Destiny’, are a follow up to HRDC’s April 27 ten-point petition against poor governance which the group claims government did not fully address
HRDC submitted a fresh petition to the government which also acts as a reminder to the authorities to act upon concerns raised in the ten point petition presented early this year after another mass demonstration.
Among many other things, HRDC is denouncing persistent power blackouts, increasing unemployment and nepotism.
The activists are also seeking answers on the theft of over 4 million litres of fuel meant for power generators at the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM).
They also want answers on alleged wanton corruption at the power utility body (ESCOM) and other state agencies such as MACRA.
Organisers of the demonstrations have issued assessment of a 10-point petition in which the HRDC demanded that President Mutharika should cancel the appointment of Rodney Jose as Inspector General of Police and wanted the Electoral Reforms Bills to be re-tabled in Parliament in their original form as recommended by the Law Commission, saying since the April 27 petition there has been inaction .
They have also noted inaction on demands for the cancellation of the K4 billion payout to parliamentarians, resignations or firing of Cabinet ministers Goodall Gondwe (Finance and Economic Planning) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government and Rural Development) for their role in the payout, and for the Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate the payout.
In an interview with SMASH , HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo said they will not relent in the fight for the betterment of Malawians even if government ignores their concerns and issues threats against them.
“As Civil Society and all Malawians of goodwill, we are at pains to learn that a servant can have the audacity to refuse to meet his employers in order to account for how he was using the powers to govern on their behalf,” said Mtambo.
The CSOs said they view the recent developments as “signs of lack of servant leadership”, but also a clear expression of “continued executive arrogance” where the President feels “too executive and important to be approached by heavily taxed ordinary Malawians.”
It reads: “You seem to be a leader who has unfortunately lost touch with reality on the ground, and as such Malawians have every right to conclude that you take them for granted.”
Lilongwe City Council Chief Executive Officer Moza Zeleza received the new petition outside the main gates of Capital Hill surrounding by government officials and staring policemen.