BLANTYRE, MALAWI — The chairman of a national protest movement in Malawi has pulled out of planned demonstrations amid accusations he has been bribed to call off the event.
The national protests are aimed at Malawi President Joyce Banda’s economic policies and currency devaluation, which have resulted in higher costs of living.
But in a surprise move, McCitings M’doka told a news conference he is pulling out due to pressure from some politicians. He also says he fears he will be arrested because police have not given permission for the demonstrations.
“Actually, I had an intention that my fellow colleagues will have an intention to pave way for the dialogue with the government. I did not expect that there is a time limit for this dialogue. Surprisingly, right on the press briefing is when I have realized that the time limit is over and we can not venture for any dialogue as well,” M'Doka said.
M’doka’s move comes amid reports he received money from the ruling People’s Party to cancel the demonstrations. M’doka said he met with party publicity secretary Hophmally Makande, but denied having been bribed.
“Makande met me and it is true. But he did not give me any money. And I really assure you that there is not any politician who has driven me to go out from this group,” M'Doka said.
Executive Director John Kapito of the Malawi Consumers Association, which is supporting the protests, described M’doka as unprincipled and not to be trusted.
“He is also aware that the job of us is not also to provide security and to calm the people, and what he is now asking from us are things that are really out of context, which means there is something that is sinister he had in mind. And indeed to cut the long story short, Mr. M’doka would have talked to me before he came here,” Kapito said.
Kapito says the protests will be held, despite M’doka’s pullout.
Malawi Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu denies the government has bribed organizers to suspend or cancel the January 17 protests.
Earlier, Kunkuyu told VOA the Banda government would not undermine the constitutional rights of the organizers.
“That is what the government cannot do. Buying people off their plans to exercise their democratic rights is an infringement on the law itself. We cannot stop them by bribing them, no,” Kunkuyu said.
It is uncertain if the police will provide security for the planned demonstrations. National Police spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo was unavailable and Deputy National Police spokesperson Kelvin Maigwa refused comment on the issue.