The Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), a labour federation of over 20 trade unions, will not be taking part in the demonstrations scheduled for January 17.
The decision not to participate in the protests which are being organised by the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) was reached at a meeting the union held on Saturday, according to MCTU secretary general Pontious Kalichero.
Kalichero said while the union appreciates Cama’s grounds for the demonstration, the labour federation decided not to take part because it had not been officially approached on the matter.
“We haven’t been approached by the organisers of the demonstrations. Therefore, we decided that it may not be proper to bulldoze our way and be part of the demonstrations,” said Kalichero on Monday.
He said the union appreciates Cama’s points of concern because they touch on interests of workers.
“But it may not be proper for the union to force its way into the demonstrations at this stage,” he said.
Executive Director for Cama, John Kapito, who himself is not in the organising team, admitted the body did not approach the labour union and other organisations basically because they are targeting individuals and not entities.
“The main stakeholder in these demonstrations is the consumer and in our definition, a consumer is an ordinary individual, the final user of goods and services, the one who goes into a shop and realises that he or she cannot afford the very same basic commodities he used nine months ago. We are not engaging companies and organisations,” Kapito said.
He, however, said organisations and groups are free to take part if they appreciate the struggle that the consumer is facing and believe in the cause Cama is pushing for.
“We are not barring anyone. If they want to be involved and come as a block, they are welcome,” said Kapito.
The demonstrations have so far been overshadowed by rejections from some civil society organisations although the Council for Non-governmental Organisations said earlier it would participate.
Apart from MCTU, the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) and the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) also said they would not be participating questioning the motive of the protest and citing not being approached as a strategic ally respectively.
Kapito however said some of the organisations have been opposing the demonstrations “for selfish reasons”.
He also said some of those opposing the protests are groupings of business people who are exploiting consumers and are just defending their interests.
In its draft petition to be presented to the government, Cama mentions issues of low salaries, floatation of the kwacha, extravagance on the part of the presidency and the automatic pricing mechanism of fuel which has been blamed for its role in the rise of prices of commodities.
MCTU draws its membership from over 20 unions in almost all sectors of the economy and boasts at least 100,000 members.