Protests or demonstrations, in as far as Malawi’s history under the democratic dispensation is concerned, have shown to be an effective tool for jostling authorities into action or simply keeping them in check once they start acting wayward or begin to think that they are a demi-god of some sort.
It is through such action that, for many years, we have witnessed winds of change sweeping across the country and with it, condemning into the dustbin those who dared to look down on the people that handed them the power chalice via the ballot. The examples are many.
You can therefore appreciate just how crucial protests are and I would hate to see anyone abusing them to a point where they begin to lose their allure.
I have noticed of late that there are those I would call ‘mavericks’ who are on a desperate mission of trying to ink their names as activists of repute. These are the kind that, at the blink of an eye, you would find grounds for taking to the roads even before they have something concrete and galvanised public support.
I found myself reflecting on this the other day when I saw a so-called protest march (or was that a street parade?) in Lilongwe where security agents on duty call far outnumbered those who had decided to exercise their right of staging a protest march. I am beginning to think that we are now abusing this right and if we are not careful, protests might just lose their meaning. Do not get me wrong, everybody has the right to assemble and protest peacefully…even a single person can stage a protest but it should not get to a point where it becomes a nuisance or nonsensical.
While we are on the same subject, I heard the other day that the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) has warned President Lazarus Chakwera that he will mobilise a million-man march if the First Citizen does not, within 14 days, do something about the prevailing difficult economic situation which has seen people on endless fuel queues, the country experiencing forex shortage and rising cost of living. We agree with those who said if the ultimatum comes with no malice, then the move is the right step to take and, hopefully, we will see some changes. This should be the way to go, giving each other notice and not just waking up today and deciding to take to the streets.
But then, let us also look at the timing; could it be that the LoP had a fair idea of what the outcome of the recently concluded discussions between International Monetary Fund (IMF) and government delegation would be, not to mention the Millenium Challenge Compact, tools which could, to an extent, help ease the forex shortage problem,, hence trying to do some political posturing through this ultimatum as feared by some? Otherwise, where was he all the while?
Whichever way your head is tilting towards on this, all I want to say is that we must not trivialise protest marches and hopefully we will continue to hold and enjoy them where necessary.
‘Meat’ me at the butcher’s
Word on the street is that our beloved government, specifically the ‘big bwanas’ at the Ministry of Agriculture, have found themselves with an egg all over their face after a deal went wrong as, according to a statement by principal secretary in the ministry, they issued instructions to Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi to issue payment to Barkaat Foods Limited, a UK-based firm.
A quick search on the internet shows that this so called company, which we are told folded before it could deliver the goods, is in fact a meat processing company. How gullible and careless could our officials be? You mean no one had it in them to think of due diligence before parting with such a huge sum (assuming that is the only money)?
Malawians need answers and those answers should be coming fast. We are told the money is under recall and we are all watching to see if, indeed, there might be something to salvage from all this. Otherwise, the work is cut out for both the Malawi Police Service and Anti- Corruption Bureau on this one.
I can even imagine those at the UK firm, who were smiling all the way to the bank, muttering something like this to our clueless officials; ‘meat’ me at the butcher’s to collect your fertiliser consignment!
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).