Malawians demand more from their government

Civil society organisations in Malawi have given the government a 100-day ultimatum to end the financial and governance challenges the country is facing.

Scores of concerned citizens gathered in Lilongwe to present a petition to Lilongwe City Assembly in protest over Malawi’s financial woes, which have resulted in a rise in strike action.

Protesters also demanded a change in electoral laws and the return of R1.2-million donated by the National Aids Commission to first lady Getrude Mutharika’s charity organisation, Beautify Malawi (Beam).

Beam has no connection with the issue of HIV and Aids, and the donation is seen as a handout to the president’s wife.

Citizen action
Strikes have paralysed some government departments, including health and education. The judiciary has also been hit, with the courts at a standstill for three months, and even the University of Malawi has closed.

One of the protest organisers, Gift Trapence, who is the executive director for the Centre of the Development of People, said the ­demonstrations had been peaceful and that the group had managed to deliver a petition to the government.

“We have given them a hundred days to respond to our petition. We have asked Beam to return the money to the National Aids Commission within three weeks,” Trapence said.

Civil society organisations are also demanding the speedy implementation of electoral laws that would require the elected president to get more than 50% of the votes cast, said Trapence.

Majority doesn’t rule
Currently Malawi follows the “first past the post” principle, which enables a presidential candidate with fewer than 50% of the votes to win the elections.

President Peter Mutharika won the 2014 presidential elections with 36.4%.

The demonstrations only took place in Lilongwe because heavy rains hit Blantyre for two days, preventing people from taking to the streets.

Eleven people have died and thousands have been displaced by flooding, while many roads have been washed away.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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