When Malawians are asked to exercise their Constitutional right of demonstrating against anything they disapprove, the response has always be lukewarm and disappointing to the organizers. There was a time when John Kapito would demonstrate alone for a cause that affects all Malawians such as a shortage of water in Blantyre. Most Malawians do not understand the impact of demonstrations and especially this generation born after multi party politics. Many think demos have to produce results the next morning either government removed and problem solved. In South Africa, demos are so popular that even when Cosatu calls for one; the ANC catches flu. They are effective though at times violent. But why do governments fear demos and CSOs like them?
To begin with, a state is like a natural person just like you and me. It has a reputation to protect in the eyes of other fellow states. It is the duty of the rulers of that state at that particular time to make sure that the reputation is protected. If your neighbour is illtreating his children, you can report him to police. States do the same. Article 47 of the African Commission; allows any state to report to it if there is human rights violations in another state. Therefore, any state will protect her reputation by being perfect in the eyes of others.
This is where governments hate demos. Governments control states, in our case the DPP is the government. When people are demonstrating, the reputation of Malawi is tainted in the eyes of the lnternational community. Depending on what people are demonstrating, it shows that the government that is controlling the state of Malawi has violated its commitments to the lnternational agreements. Take an example of corruption, states have signed a treaty to eradicate corruption in their terrorities in line with restricting financing terrorists. Any demonstration that involves a K4bn scandal will show the lnternational community that Malawi is not serious in her obligation to eradicate corruption. This will seriously affect the reputation of Malawi. This is why the government will make it possible to halt such demonstrations and hide this to International community.
Get this right, demonstrations are not called for you to go and riot, break into other people’s shops and any kind of disorder. Demos are meant to show the lnternational community that this government you signed treaties with is not living to its promise, it has no reputation. Now, when a government does not want the lnternational community to know this; it solves the problem rather than facing the demonstration. This is why CSOs like demos. They are not giving you a chance to steal, rape, use foul language…NO…
In South Africa, the most common demos involve wages. What the people are saying to lnternational Labour Organisation -ILO- is that this government is not living to its promise it signed with you on minimum wage. When the South African government does’nt want its reputation tainted to ILO it quickly solves the problem. This is the effectiveness of demonstrations.
My fellow Malawians therefore, understand why CSO call for demos. They are not calling you to go and break other people’s shops, or be disorderly. It is not true that demos are meant to remove a government in power. Demos of such nature are unpopular with the lnternational community unless human rights is an issue with such a government. It is about telling the true side of a government controlling the state and how it failing to fulfil its commitments. When a state’s reputation has been tainted, the government loses its credibility in the eyes of the lnternational community. No government wants to be in this situation, as result a government faced with such a situation will enventually do something to avoid the demos. This is why demos are effective all over the world and it is the reason why governments hate them. It is not that the CSOs just want to see the reputation of their state ruined and be happy about it…NO…All they want is to see a government fulfilling its obligations it signed with the International community. It is not about supporting any political party but understanding the law of treaties.
The state of Malawi has ratified many international treaties. Treaties in governance, human rights, education, water, economy, labour etc. Any violation in these, Malawians have a right to protest. This is where the International community knows that Malawi has not fulfilled her obligation. Take an example of fairness in an election. This is stated in the African charter of Human Rights to which Malawi ratified. A demo against MBC will just expose the state that it is not fulfilling that obligation, risking her reputation. A government will try hard to avoid this.
This is why you are called to a demo on 27 April, not to carry stones, not to break other people’s shops, not to riot, not to utter foul language to innocent people, but just to show the lnternational community that we have a government without a reputation. When the government does’nt want its reputation tainted; it will solve the issues to maintain the state reputation. There are bad effects if a state reputation is ruined, it affects even the reputation of individuals controlling that government including the president, cabinet and diplomatic members. This is why Governments hate demos and why demos are effective.