Public demonstrations hold sway when the public themselves are interested in the issues, when reasons for the protests have come from them.
In which case it does not matter how the organizers hype up things and try to persuade the public to get interested.
As long as the public does not identify with the agenda, they will not be interested.
This should explain why some CSOs and opposition politicians in Malawi have failed to organize sucessful demonstrations in the past four years, despite that government has not stopped anyone from organizing protests.
Coming to mind are four civil society organizations — namely PAC, CEDEP, CHRR and YCS — that have failed to impress the public to see the need to go on the streets.
The public turnout to their protests has been but a mere trickle in those cases where the demonstrations have taken place.
In fact, their attempt to mobilise people have always miserably failed because their agenda is forced on the people.
Compare that to the demonstrations by other organizations that have pulled massive crowds to the streets as people identify with the agenda.
In 2016, The Episcopal Conference of Malawi and the Evangelical Association of Malawi organized probably the most successful march in the past four years. The march attracted thousands of Malawians in all the country’s four major cities in protest against proposed abortion laws. Government allowed them to march and it was a peaceful march.
In September 2017, women’s rights organizations pulled an impressive crowd in Lilongwe to the streets in protest against gender-based violence. All went well.
DEMOS OF ANARCHY AND POLITICS
In contrast PAC, CEDEP (of Gift Trapence), CHRR (of Timothy Mtambo), YCS (of Charles Kakoloweka) and the opposition have failed to convince crowds to participate in their demonstrations because the public associate them with anarchy and politics.
For four years, their agenda has been to remove Peter Mutharika’s government well before 2019 elections.
That is politics, not civil rights activism. That is why they have been failing to convince people.
In March 2017, the CSOs organized the much hyped Day of Rage demonstrations against what it called government impunity.
The demonstrations were planned to run for 7 days. On the first day of the protest, less than 20 people turned up and the protests lasted for less than one hour.
In June 2017, PAC planned demonstrations to be one of the activities at the end of its 5+1 all stakeholder inclusive conference. The demonstrations failed. The public said they did not see sense in them at all. In addition, its placards for the demonstrations went missing.
In December 2017, PAC and the CSOs planned demonstrations on the enactment of the Electoral Reforms Bills.
These were the most well-backed demonstrations in Malawi’s recent democracy.
The entire fraternity of Catholic Bishops backed the demos and said they would go to the streets in person. Vice President Saulos Chilima helped the hyping up by reading a letter in the church that Christians must go out and demonstrate on the street.
The demonstrations failed.
When PAC tried to urge the public in February 2018 to go on the streets in reaction to the failure of the bills in Parliament, the plan also failed. Delegates to the meeting where PAC wanted to strategize on protests were divided and threw away the idea.
Later, the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs backed the position taken by some delegates against the plan.
Chairperson for the committee Maxwell Thyolera said his committee’s members expressed concerns over the cancelation of anti-government demonstration by the religious body in December last year.
Thyolera said the public has lost interest in demonstrations; as such PAC should focus on the current situations and prepare for next year`s tripartite elections.
For a number of times, MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and the CSOs incited people to revolt against the DPP government so that it does not last its five-year term. The public never got interested.
PUBLIC AS VEHICLES
The problem with many of these failed protests is that they are not driven by the agenda of the people. Rather they are based on selfish and destructive interests of those organizing.
People are only used as vehicles for the organizers to meet their objectives such as sowing anarchy, profiling their briefcase organizations so they can attract more funding from their unsuspecting donors and advancing their political interests.
When these small CSOs announced demonstrations for April 27, their reason was in respect to the K4 billion which Parliament approved for allocation to councils for development projects in constituencies.
That left Malawians stunned as to why any CSO worth the name would reject funding that is meant to ultimately improve people’s lives.
Aware of the unpopularity of their agenda and insisting on making their case to go on the streets, the CSOs have ended up padding more factors to their original reason for the demonstrations.
Needless to say there is a lot of irrationality in their demands. To any discerning mind they reveal an ulterior motive.
But what would you expect from the dark forces of destruction and politicking?
Where demonstrations are in public interest, you don’t even need to beat drums and horns as we have seen. When the people feel the cause, they act spontaneously. They need no persuasion from anyone. In fact, they become originators of a protest.
PAC, CEDEP, CHRR and YCS have been hateful of this government eversince. This is all very well known. There demonstration is not about issues. It is about hate.
And they are forcing Malawans to join them in expressing their hate and serving their political masters.
Forcing people to do what they have no feeling about is dangerous! So whatever ugly things happen on the street on April 27, the CSOs will be responsible.