Pressure mounts on Malawi's Banda over spending cuts By REX CHIKOKO | Friday, December 28   2012 at  17:43

A woman buys sugar at a local supermarket in Lilongwe on April 10, 2012, just three days after Malawi's new President Joyce Banda was sworn in. President Banda has come under growing pressure to rein in government spending and reduce the cost of living.   FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Malawi President Joyce Banda has been given 14 days to respond to a petition calling for government spending cuts or face street demonstrations.

Consumer rights watchdog Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) has marked January 17 as the day of protest if the government does not respond to its six-point petition which has also demanded the high cost of living be reined in.

The Malawi government terms the demonstration threat political after organisers turned down an offer to meet President Banda.

In the petition, CAMA has asked President Banda and her deputy Khumbo Kachale to declare their assets as per the constitution.

The petition has also asked President Banda and her cabinet to reduce internal and external travel, downsize the fleet of cabinet ministers in addition to selling the controversial presidential jet inherited from the previous regime.

In a media briefing, the spokesperson of the protest organising committee Kingsley Mabalani said Mrs Banda's administration should also reduce the number of cabinet ministers, in addition to reining in the cost of living.

"We are calling for the immediate stop of the floatation of the currency and abandon Automatic Price Adjustment for fuel," he said.

Inflation

The automatic price adjustment system has seen the price of fuel going up every month thereby causing inflation.

The government has responded by calling for protest organisers to meet the President and discuss their demands rather than calling for street demonstrations.

President's spokesperson Steve Nhlane said by refusing to meet Mrs Banda, the organisers have shown that their motive for the protests was not to address the challenges the country was facing.

"This is all political," he said.

President Banda is facing an uphill task to address the economic hardships Malawi is going through, many inherited from the leadership of Bingu wa Mutharika who died in April.

Malawians staged protests in July 2011 that left 20 people dead.