21 March 2018

Malawi: Don't Engage in 'Anti-Development' Demos, Malawi Govt Warns

President Peter Mutharika's special adviser on civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Mavuto Bamusi has warned Malawians not to engage in mass demonstrations organized by some civil society organisations and rights defenders, saying they are politically motivated to trigger insurrection.

There have been fears that such protests would result in bloodshed but the the CSOs are assuring the April 27 demonstrations will be peaceful.

According to a statement released Tuesday and signed by 10 individual activists, the decision to proceed with the demonstrations on April 27 follows the inconsistencies, illegality and a cloud of suspicions that have characterised the entire process of the infamous K4 billion funding to constituencies.

But Bamusi has described the planned demonstrations as anti-development.

"We are not surprised as government that the CSOs want to demonstrate even though the Minister of Finance ably explained circumstances surrounding the K4 billion. It appeared that after the meeting (with the minister), they did not want to change their minds. So I will describe the demonstrations as anti-development," he said.

Bamusi further said the CSOs are only pushing their personal agenda in the demonstrations.

"They are just trying to force this to appear as if people have asked them to do that, but they are only pushing their personal agenda. We are convinced that K4 billion is not an issue worth demonstrations,"he said.

The demonstrations are being organized after President Peter Mutharika and leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera have defied a seven-day ultimatum some civil society CSOs gave them over the controversial K4 billion allocation to legislators.

While Mutharika was told to fire Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and DevelopmentGoodall Gondwe and Local Government Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa over their roles on the matter, Chakwera was asked to apologise for being 'hypocritical' on the issue.

In Parliament, all legislators agreed to share the money, but later, the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) led by Chakwera made a U-turn, saying it does not want to be party to the money, as the arrangement was embroiled in "dishonesty and thievery".

Last Saturday, Gondwe met the CSO leaders--Gift Trapence, Timothy Mtambo, Charles Kajoloweka and Happy Mhango--at his Capital Hill office where they reiterated their position on his resignation. Gondwe refused to step down.

Mtambo, who is executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), said Chakwera should have gone further even to demand that Parliament reconvenes just to suspend the allocation.

Earlier, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the two Cabinet ministers--Gondwe and Nankhumwa--did not do anything warranting to be fired as all procedures on the matter were duly followed.

The K4 billion issue--that initially saw 86 legislators mostly affiliated to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its working partners getting about K40 million each--came to the fore during the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting of Parliament in February after Malawi News first exposed it.

Capital Hill has long argued that the money, described as Quick Grant Project, is meant for rural development.

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