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‘Government not sincere’

They shot down recommendations—Bon Kalindo

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Rev. William Tembo

Protest movement leader Bon Kalindo, who has been leading demonstrations to force the government to reduce service fees and ease citizens’ cost of living, has said discussions with Cabinet ministers collapsed on Tuesday because they “were not sincere”.

Kalindo—who is former youth director for UTM, a major partner in the governing Tonse Alliance—met with Information Minister Gospel Kazako, Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda, Justice Minister Titus Mvalo and Civic Education and National Unity Minister Timothy Mtambo in Lilongwe.

However Kalindo— accompanied by 21 other members of his movement—has resolved to proceed with tomorrow’s demonstrations in Mzuzu City.

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The government, opting for contact and dialogue, invited Kalindo and others to a meeting designed to discuss ways of averting the planned demonstrations in the Northern Region.

This was after Kalindo had led people in demonstrations in Blantyre and Lilongwe cities this month.

Kalindo said all but one of the proposals and recommendations that his grouping presented to the ministers were shot down. He said the government only agreed to reduce fees at Chingeni Toll Plaza.

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Indeed, the government has announced the downward revision of gate fees from K3,500 to K2,000 for minibuses, K8,500 to K5,000 for buses, K1,700 to K1,000 for taxis while ordinary vehicles will be paying K1,200, down from K1,700.

But Kalindo said gate fees were the least on their demands’ list, saying: “We wanted water tariffs to go down. We wanted prices of basic commodities to go down but all they were telling us was that they needed to consult relevant boards and agencies. What was surprising was that they were fast to agree with us on the toll gate issue despite that they were established by an Act of Parliament. The gate toll is the least of the challenges Malawians are facing.

But, in a separate interview, Kazako, who is also government spokesperson, questioned the motivation behind the planned Mzuzu demonstrations, saying the Tuesday meeting was one way of facilitating dialogue.

“Our motivation for availing ourselves to a meeting was the thinking that they needed a platform to facilitate dialogue. We now are yet to identify the real motive of their demonstrations. Otherwise, we amicably dialogued and secured an understanding on the way forward,” he said.

Kazako said in the meeting, which lasted eight hours, Kalindo promised to give the government ample time to find ways of tackling their grievances.

Mzuzu City Council confirmed to have received a notice of the demonstrations but said they were yet to meet to discuss the modalities.

Meanwhile, Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) has said the new gate fees are still exorbitant.

Moam General Secretary Coaxely Kamange said the association had welcomed the development but was looking forward to the introduction of low fees.

In Mzuzu, some faith leaders, trading under the banner ‘Concerned Clergy’, have said protests were no longer sending intended messages to authorities but, rather, sparking anger in people who end up losing property during demonstrations.

Addressing journalists in Mzuzu, Sheikh Mussa Mzumara, who is a member of Muslim Association of Malawi, said there must an alternative means of raising concerns other than demonstrations.

Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian General Secretary Reverend William Tembo concurred with Mzumara.

“Contact and dialogue should be prioritised before people resort to holding demonstrations,” he said.

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