One of the country’s rights activists Billy Mayaya has defended the use of demonstrations saying the protests allow them to hold leaders accountable on various issues of national interest.
The civil rights activist told Malawi24 that every citizen ought to regard demonstrations as a tool to compel duty bearers to act on various issues that affect them.
Said Mayaya: “Demonstrations are a constitutional right, meaning that, they are within the perimeters of the law in Malawi. They give people space to protest issues that affect governance in Malawi”
He added that demonstrations are important because they are an integral part of the constitution.
Mayaya therefore said it was unfortunate and discouraging to find that some Malawians view demonstrations as an issue for activists alone and shun from them.
These remarks come at a time when different people in the country have lost trust in mass demonstrations saying they are a waste of time since they do not bring any solutions but more problems.
Other people also accuse organizers of demonstrating for money and not because they have welfare of Malawians at heart.
One critic of the activists is Benson Nyasulu who is a teacher at a rural primary school in Rumphi district. He told Malawi24 that “some activists are in real sense not activists but thieves.”
“These activists of today are not real. They are just people who have nothing to do and wear an activist’s name just to earn a living,” he said.
Nyasulu also wondered what qualification it takes for one to be called an activist.
“Some of the activists do not even qualify to be called activists. They do not even know some things [laws]. They are just some uneducated folks who are literally stealing from people,” added Nyasulu.
But Mayaya laughed off the remarks saying that just like many other people, Nyasulu did not understand the duty of an activist.
According to Mayaya, every person can be an activist as long as they understand rights of people and help to defend them.
Commenting on the issue that demonstrations only cause more harm to citizens, Mayaya said in as far as he was concerned; demonstrations have helped to correct a number of issues pertaining to governance.
He said a number of demonstrations that have been conducted in the country have yielded commendable results.
“Of course, for example last year we had demonstration against xenophobic attacks in South Africa which worked, the attacks went down. We had also demonstrations against the sale of Malawi Savings Bank now people realise that the sale of the bank was wrong.
“This year we have had demonstrations against killings of albinos and I think the attacks have gone down although they have not completely died down. So you can see that there is an instrumental development when we have demonstrations,” he said.
In recent years, Malawi has witnessed a wave of mass anti-government demonstrations some of which ended up to be violent.
On July 20, 2011, about 20 people were shot dead by the police in the northern city of Mzuzu when they took to the streets in protest against bad governance of the then president late Bingu wa Mutharika.
Apart from activists, different quarters of the society have also used demonstrations to force authorities to respond to issues affecting them. The most recent being demonstrations by public university students who protested against the tuition fees hike.