Former UTM Party director of youth Bon Kalindo has called on government to prioritise on making basic necessitates affordable to people in order to cushion them from the hardships of the COVID-19 induced economy.
In an interview monitored on ZBS’s Tiwuzeni zoona programme aired on Sunday, he stated that much as the issue of tollgate fees is okay, but the administration should focus on basics goods which ordinary people from Chitipa to Mangochi can really appreciate and benefit from.
According to him, the government negotiation team which had power to announce the toll gate fee reduction, might as well do the same on prices of some of the basics their group is advocating for.
“Yes they can’t reduce everything all at once but between water and toll-gate fees what’s important? They should have started with water and we even underscored on the need to start with water.
"What Mr. Kazako is saying is true but they also needed to listen to our requests on the cries of ordinary people over the rising costs of basic commodities like water, removal of tax on cooking oil. If they heeded to these two, I want to state that even if that announcement was made this afternoon, this would mark the end of demonstrations. But if they continue with the approach taken, the protests will not end and we mean it.
“The point is for them to focus on what matters like reduction of water tariffs; instead they hiked water tariffs relating the current woes to global trends. Does water from Lake Malawi come from Egypt, Dubai or America? The water is free hence what’s the justification to hike water by over 50 percent? The price of water needs to come down for people to appreciate they have a servant leader in President Chakwera,” he said.
The vocal political activist stated that even when he was a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) member, he advised the leadership on the need to change policies which wasn’t heeded to leading to its downfall.
During the interview, the former legislator did not hide his disappointment that he and Richard Chimwendo-Banda used to be masters of ceremonies during political rallies and sell the manifesto to the masses but nothing has materialised citing the one million jobs and provision of loans.
Asked if his involvement in demonstrations stems from the fact that he was not rewarded as expected, the leader of the anti-government protests indicated that even if he were given a ministerial position, he could have been criticizing the current administration
He pointed out that even during the DPP regime, he could stand in parliament and attack some of its policies and the Malawi Congress Party members then in opposition, used to applaud him.
Kalindo faulted the advisors who are mostly party supporters hence fail to give the President the right advice but rather tell him what they think he wants to hear unlike in developed countries where leaders are given proper advice.
He said if the advisors are real, they ought to tell the leadership that things are not well hence the need to remove water tariffs, tax on small scale businesses, basic commodities like cooking oil, matches, salt and soap
The former UTM Director of Youth insisted their group’s agenda is not to remove the President from power, but to highlight the misery the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on many Malawians.
“As government is saying that times are hard due to the global pandemic, this should not only apply to government, but it should also extend to the citizens. Some actions need to be taken to cushion them from the effects of COVID-19”
Kalindo nonetheless commended government’s invitation to a roundtable with his 21 member team for discussions stating that although the meeting was amicable, but apparently it seemed government wanted to dupe his team.
The government team was represented by Justice Minister Titus Mvalo, Information Minister Gospel Kazako, Richard Chimwendo-banda and Timothy Mtambo.
He described it as strange that Finance Minister Felix Mlusu who is a key player in the reduction of the toll gate fees, was not available during the meeting but the ones available had the powers to announce the reduction.
Kalindo also attacked the President’s frequent travels in and outside Malawi which he indicated is a drain to the public purse.
Speaking to the media during the week at Parliament, Kazako the government spokesperson disclosed that it engaged Kalindo’s side for eight hours because it believes in contact and dialogue.
He lamented that despite providing a platform for the talks; they went ahead with the demos and wondered what their motivation is.
“We are running affairs in this government on trust, and it is trust that has made us engage them. Well, I don’t know whether to believe them or not, to trust them or not to trust them. But all we can say here I don’t think that we have closed our doors; I think we made our doors open last month, last year all the time we are open because there is nothing that we are afraid of and we’re not against them, we’re not treating them as bad citizens, no.
“If they are ready to continue dialoging we made it clear to them that this is a process we haven’t stopped here; we’ll be continuing talking to you until when we find a common ground.
”Remember that there is no negotiation that will sort out all matters in one day. Never! You know it’s a process some taking longer, some the longest of periods, some might not be achieved; certain things outright. We told them outright certain things outright some of these things may not work.”
Kalindo has held demonstrations in each of Malawi's three major cities of Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilongwe.