Lilongwe City Council was on Wednesday involved in the organisation of a meeting by vendors who sought to announce that they would not be taking part in the January 17 demonstrations.
Organisers of the protests, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), have since condemned the council role in the vendors’ meeting.
The council took charge of sensitising media houses about the vendors’ meeting and further offered reporters transport to the venue of the meeting of leaders of about 30 markets in the city.
The meeting was also held at the council’s facility, the Old Town Hall.
Chairperson of the Lilongwe Vendors Association James Soko said the meeting was to inform the nation that vendors would not take part in the demonstrations because of their memories of the consequences of the deadly demonstrations of July 20, 2011.
“We have not yet recovered from the effects of the previous demonstrations. Apart from loss of lives, most of our businesses and structures that are very helpful in our businesses like banks were destroyed such that we cannot support a similar move,” Soko said.
Soko further said the vendors would not participate as they are ignorant of the reasons for holding them, “otherwise we would have participated if we were convinced”.
Cama Executive Director, John Kapito, said the developments in Lilongwe on Wednesday were a clear sign that government was sponsoring the vendors against the planned demonstrations.
“Once the council gives them the venue for the meeting and even makes sure they have media coverage, that clearly shows that government is sponsoring them,” Kapito said.
He warned that sponsoring groups against the demonstrations could brew violence.
Kapito said Cama was not worried that the vendors have decided to stay away as the focus of the January 17 demonstrations were the consumers who feel the pinch in shops.
“Had we wanted groups in these demonstrations we would have gone out to seek their support but these demonstrations are for the consumers, those who are feeling the pinch of the harsh economic situation in the country,” Kapito said.
Lilongwe City Council spokesperson, Tamara Chafunya, said the council was only there to organise media coverage for the vendors event and not necessarily content of their views.
“I do not even know what issues were on the agenda for the meeting, our responsibility as LCC was just to organise media coverage for the vendors and make sure they are covered,” Chafunya said.