Organiser of the January 17, 2013 Consumer Association of Malawi (Cama) led mass demonstrations have rejected any dialogue with government.

However, the government has expressed surprise that the organisers are sticking to the demonstrations when it is ready for dialogue.

Speaking at a press briefing in Limbe, Blantyre, organisers chairperson MacXitings M’doka and spokesperson Kingsley Mabalani ruled out any dialogue with the government and issued a 14-day ultimatum beginning January 17, for the government to address their grievances.

Cama Executive Director John kapito, the main architect of the protests, was absent at the press briefing.

While their six point petition raises concerns over frequent presidential and cabinet travel, long presidential convoy, undeclared assets, bloated cabinet and executive arrogance, much emphasis is on “wrong policy sequencing” of devaluing the kwacha and immediately floating it.

They say, much as the current devaluation was supported by many despite its known punitive repercussions, floating the kwacha without enough forex reserves was a mistake which should be reversed.

“Malawi should have started by addressing the problem of perpetually precarious foreign reserve position before adopting a flexible regime.

“It is strange that we continue to believe we can manage a flexible exchange rate system when even the IMF predicts that our forex reserves will not exceed an average of 1.2 months of import cover even by 2013.

“It is even equally strange that the authorities consider their duty to defend the domestic value of the Kwacha as virtuous but choose to default their role to defend the Kwacha’s value on the foreign market, considering the latter to be a private matter which should face the full blunt of market forces which do not exist,” reads the petition in part.

The organisers further fault the argument that the floating currency will finally correct its exchange rate since the country still imports more than what it exports hence loses it forex to importations.

“In a nutshell, no amount of bank rate will correct the current situation because it entails wrong treatment to a clearly self-induced infection whose cure is on the open-shelf: the reversal of the currency floatation,” reads their petition.

On selling the presidential jet, ministerial Mercedez Benz saloons and reducing the presidential convoy, the organisers say they expect to see the actual implementation of these announced decision rather than trusting mere words from the government.

The petition further observes that refusal to declare assets gives room for corruption as there is no starting point for holding the executive accountable.

They are therefore demanding the President and her Vice Khumbo Kachali to declare their assets for the rest of the executive and parliamentarians to follow, saying this would help stamp out corruption.

They have since said should the government display its “usual executive arrogance” and ignore their petition, there would be vigils at the expiry of the set 14 days.

“They should never underrate this demonstration. It has support from rural masses who are hit hard by this floatation of the Kwacha which has resulted in high inflation and soaring prices of goods.

“Should they not address our concerns 14 days after presenting them with this petition, we will not hesitate but go and live in the streets until our concerns are addressed,” said M’doka.

But government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu on Thursday expressed surprise that the organisers were clinging to demonstrations when the government was ready for dialogue.

“We are ready to come to a round table with them. It is just surprising that they say can’t accept dialogue now.

“This just shows they have a different agenda and not the one’s expressed in their petition,” Kunkuyu said.

He said government had already started addressing some of the concerns raised in their petition like reducing the presidential convoy to 12 vehicles, banning ministerial and presidential travel on government funds since October and more is yet to come.

He could not, however, respond to individual issues raised in the petition, saying it would be premature since they are addressed to the president.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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