Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) Executive Director John Kapito says his grouping and it’s partners will go ahead with the demonstrations slated for next month and has ruled out dialogue with the government, describing President Joyce Banda as arrogant.
But Banda, through her Press Secretary Steven Nhlane, dismissed Kapito’s stand, saying the Cama boss is speaking for himself.
Kapito told The Business Times yesterday that a number of people, including the Public Affairs Committee (Pac), have raised a number of concerns at various platforms, but that the President has chosen not to listen.
The Cama boss said the President has been seen at the podium bragging that she will not change some of the issues, which include frequent travels, floatation of the kwacha, personal maize distributions as well as the automatic pricing mechanism.
“Pac sent her a communiqué and she rejected the same. Now what are we saying? Are we saying if one or two people go inside a room and negotiate, she will give a different answer? Idon’t think so. We are going ahead with the protests,” said Kapito.
He said the issues have gone beyond negotiations because President Banda has said that she doesn’t want to discuss.
“For example on the issue of stopping the liberalisation of the kwacha, she has said she cannot do reverse it because it is the white man who told her,” said Kapito.
He said consumers in the country are facing a lot of problems because of what the government is implementing and that the only thing that can stop the demonstrations is a change in the way things are handled and not negotiations.
Kapito’s proposal to hold mass demonstrations has since received a blessing from the Council of non-governmental Organisations (Congoma) which has vowed to support it.
However, various other NGO such as the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) have asked Cama to try dialogue first before before demonstrations.
But in his response to The Business Times’ questionnaire on the matter, Nhlane said Banda is a listening President.
“As I have said before Kapito speaks for himself. That is why the consensus is that demos should be the last resort after dialogue has been exhausted and failed.
“Her Excellency maintains an open door policy. If Kapito has issues, the President is only a phone call away. Kapito belongs to the NGO community. Her Excellency has been meeting leaders of NGOs. Kapito should have taken advantage of these meetings to present his issues,” said Nhlane.
He maintained that the President is very humble and listens to people.
“That is why she has been meeting various groups of people such as leaders of political parties, civil society, including individual groups like PAC, youths, the business community, the faith community, vendors, minibus operators etc,” said Nhlane.
Finance Minister Ken Lipenga has since appealed to Malawians to excise patience with government’s economic drive and resist temptation to take to the streets as proposed by Cama.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lilongwe, Lipenga assured Malawians that the situation will eventually improve.
“The people behind the demonstrations are good people. They are not evil people. Their concerns are genuine and are shared by government which is equally concerned by the hardships,” said Lipenga.
He said, however, that there is “no magic formula” to address the economic problems affecting the country at once.
“We believe the reforms must be given time. In a matter of a few months, you will see these reforms paying off,” Lipenga said.