Just a little longer.
Malawians who were ‘marked’ for death by Malawi’s Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organizations still have a little while to live, following the postponement of the August 17 Demonstrations.
The demos, which have come to be known as an ‘Event of death’, were to be staged by NGOs and CSOs in Malawi’s four major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba, purportedly against worsening living standards.
This comes at the back of two-day demonstrations organized on July 20 last month, in which, at least, 18 people lost their lives.
A Malawi Human Rights Commission report released yesterday indicates that 15 people died of gun-shot wounds. The report blames Malawi Police Service officers’ brutality and indiscriminate use of live ammunition.
NGO and CSO leaders attach the term ‘national’ to the demonstrations, yet they occur in less than seven districts in a country that has 28 administrative districts. The leaders also call the demonstrations ‘mass’ when the issues in focus exclude challenges that affect the poor.
For instance, NGO and CSO have demanded that President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration addresses forex and fuel shortage challenges the country is grappling with- leaving paraffin, which is used by, at least, 84 percent of Malawians out of the equation.
Malawi’s poor have had to accept darkness as a temporary companion for the past eight month, leaving on the dark on empty stomachs.
But the CSO’s and NGOs have never spoken out against paraffin scarcity, leaving the poor to fight their own battles, and face up to negative devices.
Electrification has been another major problem. Out of the population of 13 million, only 16 percent has access to electricity. But CSOs and NGOs have never spoken for the poor on the issue. Their electrified houses make it impossible for them to see the darkness outside.
In fact, their generators, too, make them live in artificial light always, setting them miles apart from the realities of life in Malawi. These realities are often sad, but the Malawian has managed to leave his or her smile intact.
That is why Malawi calls itself the Warm Heart of Africa. It has people who smile in pain, and celebrate bare-footed. In Malawi’s biting winters, old women , orphaned and other vulnerable children walk bare-footed on the sand, or black clay soils.
In summer, it gets so hot the soil ‘bites’ more than hold the ground. The poor still walk, bare-footed and in tattered clothes, to the next maize meal.
Most of these maize and millet mills use diesel. But, because only the poor use these mills, the rich- who include NGO and CSO leaders- have never spoken about this ‘pain’.
These problems are not exclusive to rural areas. Malawi’s urban population is full of people who live in ramshackle house. People who receive peanuts and live in slams.
Such slams are common in Ndirande, Malawi’s most populous township located at the hub of the country’s commercial city, Blantyre. They are an eyesore in Mbayani, Chigwirizano, Chinsapo and Nathenje.
The NGO and CSO leaders see them, as they pass by, in their 4x4 vehicles.
They shake their heads in the presence of donors, promising to do something about it; that is, if given funding.
But they know in their hearts of hearts that the poverty they see all around- the poverty on the smiling faces- is a money-making venture.
That is how they barter their bread and cheese.
That is why they have never spoken of these problems faced by the poor.
That is why they feel, in their hearts of hearts, that the poor are weak. If not, why else can’t they help themselves.
The CSO and NGO leaders feel, deep down their stomachs, that poverty is a physical hole with staircases one climbs up on. If these poor people cannot see the staircases out of poverty, then, they don’t think- they can be used as pawns.
After all, they do not need payment, these people; they will get their rewards when they root and go on rampage. When they break into Departmental stores, ransack goods, and destroy human lives- that is their reward.
So the poor are engaged, becoming pawns in a game of the living. The living are the rich, the elite who live in Low Density areas such as Namiwawa, Nyambadwe. The rich are the living.
If the marchers, the poor, die; it is one of those things. If they disappear from under the sun, that is a ‘good’ statistic to be sent to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, and other bodies.
These bodies will rant against the Malawi government. They will ask Malawi’s development partners to withdraw financial support and grants (like the United States government has done with the K50 billion) and support NGOs and CSOs instead.
That is money.
There is money in demonstrations.
And CSO and NGO leaders have learned about that the good way.
Here are people who advocate for, to quote Apostle Timothy Khoviwa of Word of Faith Temple, ‘evil’ things. Strange things.
What do you expect from people who behave differently, advocating for the unheard of in a conservative society such as ours? Do they care about human lives?
The answer is a resolute ‘No’. These people advocate for ‘nasty’, ‘strange things’ (to quote Peter Mandala of Salima Youth Organisation), things that are not supported by the majority. And the majority, if the truth be told, care about the dead. Malawi’s majority fears death.
Not with these CSO and NGO leaders.
They make money out of death.
That is why they wanted some more people to die, so that the Malawi Human Rights Commission could release another questionable report; a report that condemns, and government and increases government’s chances of losing development support.
This support, which is money, will go to CSOs.
That is the truth, the heart of the demonstrations.
There is nothing more; just the wish to achieve these selfish goals.
The evidence that this battle of self-aggrandizement was fought is the life that is lost, the life of a seven-year old, still in the morning of his life.
Gone and forgotten by the CSO and NGO leaders who started it all. But alive in the hearts and minds of his relatives.
These CSO and NGOs must really apologise to Malawians for the misery they have caused. The misery that was theirs, and theirs alone, but which they have put out as national concerns.
Leaders who seemed to enjoy the laying of wreaths.
Political parties such as the United Democratic Front and Malawi Congress Party took advantage of the deaths, went to lay wreaths in the morning; in the afternoon, they addressed political meetings.
So, that is it. Death is a campaign tool. Especially violent death.
UDF’s Atupele Muluzi did it in Mzuzu.
MCP President did it in Lilongwe.
But the worst of all is President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The man Mutharika is also a shame. At a time the nation was weeping, he was busy celebrating the death of the 18 with Democratic Progressive Party cadets.
Joseph Tembo played the songs.
The songs of death.
And the ruling DPP cadets, and the President, danced to the tunes of death.
At Sanjika Palace in Blantyre. At the New State House in Lilongwe. At the State Lodge in Mzuzu. Mutharika laughed, and danced, and celebrated.
They guzzled beer like nobody’s business; watering down the spirits of the death.
The people Mutharika said dies in vain.
That was immoral, too.
The President must repent.
And ask for forgiveness from Malawians.
You do not dance when there is death in the house. That is Malawi culture.
A culture complimented by common sense.
Some may say Mutharika was only dancing to celebrate the wickedness of CSO and NGO leaders; people who do not deserve to be called leaders because they play with people’s lives.
They do not play with their children’s or cousins lives; they play with the poor’s lives.
They do not march and demonstrate near their homes. They do it in the streets, where the big shops are- pay for the poor pawns that are thrown around in this game called CSO advocacy.
It is an immoral game.
But Malawian commoners- commoners whose behaviour smacks of suspicions (where have they gotten the money to do this?)- James Willie and Rodrick Makapu have seen sense in peace and dialogue (some of the fruits of common sense) and gone to the High Court in Blantyre.
Willie and Makapu’s mission: To stop death on August 17, 2011.
They call themselves small-scale business people who ply their trades in Limbe (the commercial centre of Blantyre) and Blantyre Central Business District.
The inter partes injunction puts Undule Mwakasungula, Reverend MacDonald Sembereka, the Human Rights Consultative Committee, the Malawi Congress Party, the United Democratic Front, the People’s Transformation Party (those wishing to take part in the anti-government demos), as the first defendants.
The second defendant is Davie Charles Kanyoza, standing for all those wishing to hold demos in support of the Malawi government.
That has affected the planned demos.
Private Radio Stations such as MIJ (Malawi Institute of Journalism) have already started announcing that the demos have been postponed. MIJ has even gone a step further, saying it wishes Malawi well, and would, therefore, like to appeal to Malawians to give dialogue a chance.
That is a step further. That is more than taking responsibility. That is positive journalism.
And so gets postponed August 17, 2011’s ‘Event of death’.
The poor- those marked for death- can live a little bit longer.
Tomorrow, CSO and NGO leaders may decide that their (the poor’s) time to die is nigh.
That call will be hidden in messages that announce the next round of demos.
Let us give peace a chance.
Let us allow others to live.
Let us not scare Foreign Direct Investors.
Let us protect the businesses that are already here.
Let us maintain our ‘Malawi: The Warm Heart of Africa’ accolade.
Let us be calm.
We have been together for so long.