Like many writers and commentators have already done, let me also offer my congratulations to the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and the Malawi government for the peaceful and successful demonstrations that were held on January 17 when consumers expressed themselves on issues of their concern.
I may not agree with the key reason behind the demonstrations, which is Cama's misgivings about devaluation or floatation of the Malawi kwacha, but Cama deserves to be commended for its determination to ensure that citizens exercise their democratic right.
The demonstrations went on as planned, attracted reasonable numbers, were held peacefully, the petition was presented and the messages were well publicised.
Partial as they were, the demonstrations still sent a strong message to those in power that Malawians are getting matured and will always stand up and hold those in office accountable when it is necessary to do so.
Going by what happened on January 17 and before that on July 20, 2011, it is certainly clear that the times when politicians took Malawians for granted are truly over. Well done Cama. At the end of the day, it was democracy that triumphed.
The government should also be applauded for allowing consumers to demonstrate without hindrance, providing adequate security, receiving the petition through city authorities in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu and for promising to seriously look into the issues presented.
To be fair, all the issues raised by Cama are valid and reasonable and deserve serious consideration by the government.
While I may differ with Cama on their suggested route on the Malawi kwacha exchange rate, which is that its floatation or liberalisation should be reversed, I do generally agree that the economy could have been better managed to give the whole notion of reforms a better image among consumers.
Devaluation or floatation of the kwacha was a drastic measure that required serious realignment in the way we do things not only among the consumers but even among those in government.
Instead, it is only us consumers who have been made to tighten our belts and suffer while waiting for the promised recovery when those championing the austerity measures have gone about their lives as usual, even going to the extent of extravagance on tax payers' money.
I strongly believe that right and exemplary signals from the leadership on how prudence, patience and endurance during r e -adjustment can bring benefits could have diminished the resentment towards the devaluation among the consumers.
That is why while I welcome dialogue between Cama and the government on the issues presented in the January 17 petition, I would encourage the government to discuss with Cama and convince them on the importance of maintaining a competitive exchange rate regime.
In the discussions, the government should stand its ground on the kwacha liberalisation.
However, I believe the other issues raised by Cama are not debatable and should be of automatic implementation by the government.
It must be appreciated that those issues are important in the efforts to convince consumers appreciate the importance of the economic reforms adopted in May 2012.
C a m a should press hard and demand immediate change on those issues which, to me, are related and key to the economic reforms and recovery programme.
You cannot have leaders that travel around with complete abandon, in the process spending public resources excessively, while ironically asking their citizens to accept suffering as everyone awaits the Promised Land.
You cannot increase an already abundant cabinet while your citizens are expecting you to reduce it significantly as both a practical and symbolic way of cutting expenditure.
You cannot have a President who suddenly exhibits limitless riches yet she refuses to declare her assets, citing a flawed piece of law that does not compel her to do so after having done the same when she became vicepresident way back in 2009.
It is high time government demonstrated true ownership of the reforms by practicing what it preaches. All the issues raised in the Cama petition
are interwoven and hinge on austerity which citizens expect the administration to practice as part of the devaluation and economic reform measures implemented to help the economy recover.
Should the government fail to walk the talk and live by example on belt tightening, consumers should not be expected to sit back, watch and bear the burden of the reforms while the President, her deputy and members of her bloated cabinet recklessly live in luxury.
And 21 days is not too short for the President to reduce travels, declare assets and reduce the cabinet. Let's maintain the kwacha floatation but change our leaders' way of living. Everything should be aligned to the reforms.
Thumbs Up to Cama!!