CAMA, SMEs send stern caution over violent protests

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…asks leaders to tame tongues

Protestors in the country have been warned against turning planned peaceful vigils into violent ones saying the act is derailing not just the economy but also the rights of consumers and business operators.

The caution has been made by the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) and the Small Medium Business Operators in Malawi at a press briefing held in Blantyre on Monday.

It comes at a time when the civil society led by the Human Rights Defenders has announced of another spate of vigils from this week meant to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Czar Jane Ansah to step down over what they christen as leading a ‘fraudulent election’ that saw Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winning the presidency with about 160 thousand votes against Malawi Congress Party (MCP)’s Lazarus Chakwera.

In addressing the media, CAMA Director John Kapito said the stance of the body is that while people have a right to demonstrate, they need to refrain from violence as it disturbs the consumers’ rights and that of business operators.

Kapito was however quick to say that at the moment, they are engaging the organisers of the vigils to ensure that the protests are as peaceful as they are planned.

In the previous demonstrations across all major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu, cases of vandalism, theft and arson were reported.

Business operators had then been forced to seal their shops and for bus operators, they had announced cancellation of travel in all major routes.

But Kapito along with Lewis Chiwalo of the small business operators, said the conduct of the people had so many factors behind.

They noted that the social media, state owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the organisers, the leadership, both ruling and opposition have had a role in inciting the violence.

The two stated that the MBC and Blantyre City Council created a negative mood for the vigils by having biased panel discussions and initially denying to grant permission to the organisers to hold the vigils respectively.

The two also stated that the police should not relent towards protecting people during demonstrations questioning the officers for also letting protestors conduct themselves in undesired manner.

“All the stakeholders have to coordinate well if we are to have peaceful protests. Our arguments have been that leaders have to halt carrying tones and languages that encourage people to rather be violent. We also believe that as Malawians, we need to understand that it is the message that we carry during vigils that matters and not the violence and the numbers,” Kapito said.

On his part, Chiwalo stated that business operators have also been dealt with a huge blow as foreign investors whom he argued form a critical role to Malawi are shying away from the country in fear of their safety.

The two have since called on President Peter Mutharika, the civil society, the media and the entire opposition to avoid deviating Malawians from the notion of peaceful demonstrations.

“We wish to remind the Leadership of this country that that the role of the State is to provide protection to anyone that wishes to demonstrate without being victimized and the demonstration organizers, our advice is that they should always ensure that they carry out their demonstrations in a peaceful manner while also respecting the rights of those that are not taking part. Protests must be conducted with minimal disturbances to those that choose not to participate, the Business Community and all Consumers. All Malawians must be assured of their safety and access to business before, during and after the demonstrations,” they said.

The two added: “The next planned demonstrations must ensure that all peoples Rights which includes the Business Community, Consumers and Small Scale Entrepreneurs are protected and respected and that no businesses are looted and no individuals are targeted. We believe that Malawians can conduct peaceful demonstrations and that right must never be denied. Finally, CAMA believes that Malawians have the potential to conduct peaceful demonstrations that are safe. We uphold the fact that this Right must never be denied when proper channels for planning are followed by any protesting group.”

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