By Watipaso Mzungu
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) says all is set for peaceful demonstrations against punitive taxes, levies, interest rates, exorbitant mobile phone tariffs and theft of K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds.
CDEDI has mobilized Malawians to take to the streets tomorrow following the decision by the Tonse government not to remove value added tax (VAT) and other taxes of essentials goods such as edible cooking oil.
The organization had initially given the government seven days to comply or face nationwide protests.
CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa told Nyasa Times this morning that all is set for the holding of the demonstrations.
“In Lilongwe, the demonstrations will start at 9 am from Lilongwe Community Centre Ground to the Civic Offices in City Centre via Mchesi. In Blantyre, the peaceful demonstrations will start at 9 am from the Kamuzu Upper Stadium to the Civic Offices via the Highway passing through Ginnery corner roundabout. In Mulanje the peaceful demonstrations will start at 9 am from Nkhonya to the Council Offices via Chitakale,” said Namiwa, adding that petitions will be delivered in all the mentioned councils.
He said as a law-abiding institution, CDEDI wrote the following city authorities and councils in order to inform them about the scheduled peaceful demonstrations in Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre Cities; and Mulanje district council.
The law states that holding a peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right, but the convener should notify the authorities at least 48 hours before the date of the demonstration.
However, although CDEDI wrote the letters on Monday April 14, 2021, it is only the Mzuzu City Council that responded promptly by calling for a planning meeting that was held at the council chambers on Friday, 16 April 2021.
The meeting resolved to reschedule the protests due to the Vice President Dr. Saulosi Chilima’s official visit to the region, a development the city authorities said would strain security agents.
Namiwa said this means that tomorrow; the demonstrations will not take place in Mzuzu.
“The silence from the rest of the councils is a futile attempt to deny Malawians their right to hold peaceful demonstrations. Additionally, it is a clear case of impunity and arrogance that is being displayed in our public offices. On the other hand, it is evidence enough that the Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) regime is in itself a threat to the future of our hard earned democracy,” he said.
He said CDEDI is keen to liberate Malawians from decades of economic bondage by demanding the immediate removal of 16.5 percent VAT on cooking oil.
The organization is also demanding the commencement of the review and subsequent removal of some of the taxes and levies on fuel, water and electricity, in a bid to reduce the cost of production, thereby making the local products and services more affordable and accessible to the ordinary Malawians, who are also the voters.
Namiwa emphasized that Malawians are currently struggling to make ends meet due to among many others, the high cost of living, which is as a result of high cost of essential commodities and services such as water, electricity, cooking oil, fuel and mobile phone charges.
“CDEDI is therefore is informing all well-meaning Malawians and patriotic citizens that it will lead nationwide protests against punitive taxes, levies, interest rates, exorbitant mobile phone call charges and data and the massive plunder and theft of the Covid-19 funds. All these malpractices are mercilessly punishing the vulnerable and the marginalized in society. These peaceful demonstrations are scheduled to take place this Wednesday, 21st April 2021, in the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre, and Mulanje district,” he said.
“The dressing code during these demonstrations is red and black. Covid-19 preventive measures will be followed. Facemasks will be distributed to the demonstrators. CDEDI is calling upon the Malawi Police service to provide security as per their constitutional mandate to ensure the safety and security of lives and property of all Malawians. CDEDI is also calling upon the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) to do likewise, following a very good precedent they set during the previous demonstrations that were staged in protest against the May 21, 2019 tripartite elections, where they were deployed to protect lives and property,” he added.
While commending President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera for releasing the audit report into the looting of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds, Namiwa reminded the President to make public findings of the 6 July report, the Statehouse Crossroads accommodation scandal and the fuel supply saga at the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA).
He further demanded that Chakwera should also exonerate himself from allegations former MCP Kasungu parliamentarian Alex Major leveled against him bordering on nepotism, favoritism and corrupt practices by his senior cabinet ministers and top state house staff.