Patience among Malawians appears to be growing thin on promises made by the Tonse Alliance-led administration, with some taking to the streets in Blantyre and Mzuzu cities Friday against the ‘rising cost of living’.
Business was brought to a standstill in Blantyre, with two rival groups pelting each other with stones, burning tyres and police in between firing teargas for hours.
Both groups had placards with various anti-government messages but one had people who wielded machetes and other knives.
The armed group claimed politician Bon Kalindo, the mastermind of the protests who by then was nowhere to be seen, had promised them money for their participation and vowed not to proceed until they were paid.
It was at this point that the confrontation ensued and soon, they were burning tyres in the street of the country’s commercial hub, prompting law enforcers to fire teargas but the protesters then descended on a freight container which housed Police offices in the Central Business District close to Blantyre Market, which was set on fire.
Soon Kalindo would emerge from his cocoon and joined the demonstrations which then proceeded peacefully as planned.
He heaped blame on Tonse administration, accusing it of bringing who he called thugs to counter the demonstrations, a development which government spokesperson Gospel Kazako denied.
“We do not know where Mr. Kalindo is getting that information. We were not there and we do not know how many groups were there so we cannot comment on that but what we can say is that we do not hold any grudge with those who protested. They are Malawians and have a right to express,” he said.
Presenting the petition to government through Blantyre City Council Civic Offices, Kalindo said the economic hardships which the country is facing are affecting everyone, even those in public service.
He said other protests will be in Lilongwe on November 26 and then in Mzuzu on December 3.
“In fact from now onwards I have resigned as Board Member of Malawi Housing Corporation. I should also take this opportunity to apologise to Malawians for campaigning for these people,” he said.
In the petition, Kalindo and other undersigned Malawians have cited revision of toll fees at Chingeni Toll gate, revision of water tariffs, lack of decisive action on corruption especially conclusion of cases to do with abuse of Covid funds, revision if fuel pieces, one million jobs, prices of commodities in general and fertiliser shortages in the country.
Kalindo has since given government up to 14 days to respond.
On the issues raised, Kazako said they are not new issues, stressing government has already acknowledged the pain Malawians are going through and has been explaining how they are dealing with the issues at hand.
He said the rising cost of living is a global feature but government is doing all it can to arrest the situation.
In Mzuzu, two people were arrested Friday in Mzuzu demonstrations on suspicion that they were blocking the dual carriageway on their return from civic offices.
Mzuzu Police Public Relations Officer Paul Tembo confirmed the development, saying the two have been charged with conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
“I can confirm that two people have been arrested as they started misbehaving after demonstrations. These suspects will appear before court soon and we have charged them with conduct likely to cause breach of peace,” Tembo said.
The Mzuzu demonstrations, organised by the Social Revolution Movement, started at around 9:30 am but with low patronage.