It appears at this time most CSO leaders agree that mass demonstration are too risky for the moment.
We all remember how on 20 and 21 July 2011 Bingu sent the police out to shoot at us with live ammunition. He had 20 of us killed those fateful days. This is a heavy toll to pay for a demonstration from which we will never know what it delivered to us. Did it force Bingu out of office? We don’t know even if it contributed just a little. But we do know that 20 brave young lives were cut short by brutal police force.
In the meetings between police and CSO organizers, the police threatened that at (possible) follow up demonstrations the police would use more brutal power than they had done on 20-21 July. Twenty brave young lives cut short, twenty families loosing a loved one and in many cases the nsima winner of the family. This was a heavy toll to pay and a heavy responsibility to bear for the organizers.
They gave in to the threat of murder and violence, to the blackmail of the powerful, the ruling class, the oppressor. At that time it was clear that the population did not want Bingu to continue his rule.
Remember: the flag change, the academic freedom saga, the shortage of fuel, drugs, forex, even sugar, the worsening economic situation, the style of rulership.
We have a slightly different type of problem now, but not that much. There is wide spread hunger now, which is if possible even worse than the situation under Bingu. Then it was mostly the middle class who suffered. But now it is mostly the poor, and they are always hit hardest. For them there are no reserves, even in good times. Let alone now, two years after Arthur Peter Mutharika got the presidency, but fails to use his power to steer the nation.
The style of leadership is also very different: Bingu ranted and looked for trouble with everybody. From the street vendors (Dongosolo), to the Parliament (Prorogued!), to the neighboring countries (illegal shipping through Mozambique, fights with the Zambian authorities) to international relations (expelling the British high commissioner) to his own civil service (“I am frustrated”) to the whole population he called “chickens”.
Arthur Peter has a different style: nothing.
A little lie here and there, and then:
The kwacha falls.
The economy tanks.
Donors demand improvement in financial management.
One wonders what would happen with mass demonstrations. Would it be nothing? Probably the lower placed section of the ruling class will start lethal action, and we will have deaths again.
A heavy responsibility for the organizers. On the other hand: people are dying of hunger now. That is also lethal violence from the ruling class. We don’t know how many will die in either case, but the choice is difficult. Are we going to buckle under the threats and blackmail from the police (is government, is ultimately the responsibility of the President. The buck stops there.) What do we think?
Please let me know your thoughts.
Should we follow the President and do nothing?
Should we demonstrate?
Should we do something entirely different?
I don’t know.