BLANTYRE— Civil groups in Malawi have launched a new drive called Black Monday to protest the government’s handling of the so-called Cashgate scandal - in which millions in public money was siphoned off by civil servants. Malawians are asked to wear all black attire until the government completes its investigation - which is past deadline.
The launch of the drive comes after government officials failed to meet a November 30 deadline that the rights group known as Civil Society Grand Coalition set for the government to finalize its investigations into the financial scam.
Voice Mhone is an executive member for the coalition.
“We expect Malawians to start responding to the call for wearing black. Actually every Monday Malawians are urged to put on black until the looting and challenges we are seeing are eradicated," said Mhone.
He says besides the wearing of black attire, Malawians across the country are also asked to honk their car horns, ring bicycles bells and whistle loudly throughout the day.
“We are doing this so that Malawians can wake up and pose a wakeup call to the leadership that Malawians will not be sleeping over these issues because the money belongs to the Malawians. If somebody has broken into your house, you wake up and actually you raise an alarm," said Mhone.
However, the government says it is unfortunate that the civil groups are rushing action on issues which need time to correct.
Brown Mpinganjira is the government’s spokesperson.
“By not adhering to the 30th November [deadline], we are not being arrogant, were not being rude to them, but these are measures that require time. After all, if it was possible all of us would have wanted to finish this so that we know where we stand because after we have cleaned up everything, Malawi will be a better place, it will be corruption free," said Mpinganjira.
Because of the scandal, Malawi’s aid donors have suspended contributions that amount to 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget pending the outcome of the investigations.
Mpinganjira says government is doing what it can to wrap things up.
“We are working as a government. You can see what is happening already as people have been taken for questioning, cases have opened; measures have been taken at Capital Hill. So things have begun to happen. Unfortunately not everything can happen within one day," said Mpinganjira.
Some civil rights groups are opposed to the Black Monday movement, saying the protests don't take into account the progress and strides made so far in the Cashgate investigation.
Bright Kampaundi is the Chairperson of the Forum for National Development
“Black Monday doesn’t really bring anything. I would want to propose that we need to have a White Monday where people should put on white clothes because following the presentation we have heard from Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Police there is progress that is being made. So in support of what is being made, we can propose to have a White Monday where people can actually put on white clothes," said Kampaundi.
Over $250 million is reported missing from the government accounts. Civil servants, business persons and government officials are among the more than 60 persons arrested so far, and 33 bank accounts have been frozen. Properties suspected to have been acquired dubiously have also been seized.
The British forensic audit team which has been hired to look into government accounts is expected to release its findings in January.