Malawi quasi-religious organisation Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and Catholic Commission for Justice and Pace (CCJP) say 64 percent of Malawians have rejected the federal system of government advocated mainly by some political leaders from the north.
According to PAC’s Father Peter Mulomole, his organisation conducted a poll recently across the country following meetings PAC held in view of sentiments expressed y some Malawians including some political leaders who said the way forward for Malawi was federal system of government after the 2014 general election.
Mulomole said the survey shows only 36 percent of Malawians want the federal system of government.
“This shows Malawians are not ready for the federal system of government,” said Mulomole.
Officials from CCJP said during the dissemination of the findings of the survey on Thursday in Blantyre that the views expressed in in the survey represent the views of Malawians on the issue and must be respected.
But the Forum for Advancement of Federal System and Rural Development in Malawi (FAFSRDM) has howled PAC, describing it as a spent force in as far as speaking for the voiceless in the country is concerned.
The forum, through its chairperson Dr. Bina Shaba, told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview that the “committee was no longer dealing with what people want.”
Shaba said it was unfortunate that PAC was now “siding with government.”
He said people in Malawi wanted “a federal system of government and reject the current unitary system that has left the majority of citizens extremely poor and promotes inequality in the sharing of the national cake.”
Shaba said the fight for federal system will go on, saying only a referendum can give a true picture of what people want.
PAC said the adoption of “fully-fledged” federal system of government would be too costly for Malawi’s economy and therefore urged government to embark on progressive devolution within the current system of government
The organisation also observed that concerns that motivated calls for federal system of government and their proposed solutions are attainable within the current unitary system of government if they are accorded enough political will and leadership that is more concerned with the country’s long term development and sustainability
PAC, an interfaith organization that promotes human dignity through advocacy, civic education and conflict transformation, also said calls demanding for its position or side on federalism and inclusivity were misplaced and premature as the intention of PAC was to facilitate consultations and dialogue as opposed to taking and debating positions on the issue.
“In any case, at the material times, there was not yet enough evidence and analysis of the issues to enable PAC to pronounce itself on the issues. However, on the basis of the results of the consultative process that was undertaken, PAC is now in a position to make observations and recommendations,” said Dr Milton Kutengule, Lead Consultant, who took the delegates through the report.
Kutengule said a total of 169 issues of concerned were independently identified by 14 groups of delegates–two groups at the national conference and four in each of the three regions.
“These delegates identified issues that caused discontent, discomfort, disappointment and despair among Malawians in relation to the country’s political system and system of government and governance.
“That the totality of factors that cause discontent among Malawians and are understood to have motivated the call for federalism are genuine concerns that should merit the attention of those who govern and require redress,” Kutengule.
According to the report on the “Question of Inclusivity and Federalism in Malawi”, nine priority concerns that motivated calls for the adoption of federalism are inadequacies of the electoral system; unsatisfactory implementation of the decentralisation/devolution programmes; significant concentration of executive power in the presidency by the Constitution; prevalence of region, ethnic and tribal divisions and latent animosity without an appropriate mechanism for enhancing national unity; continued fusion of political parties in power with government systems in which party considerations appear to influence access to public resources and development in favour of segments of their supporters while marginalizing opposition parties from playing their rightful role; inequitable distribution of development projects, often in favour of the region where the ruling president comes from; lack of continuity in development policies and programmes as each incoming government comes with its own development agenda or strategy; inadequate and weak accountability mechanisms in the period between elections; dominance of nepotism, political party affiliations, tribalism, and regionalism in the appointment of public officers at the expense of merit in terms of capacity to deliver in those offices; and marginalization of other organs of State, especially Parliament, by making them subservient to the Executive.
However, PAC observed that there are already on going reform efforts that need to be harnessed and reinvigorated for authorities to effectively respond to the issues and been seen to be addressing the concerns.
The interfaith organization also says there is “significant lack of knowledge and in-depth understanding among many stakeholders (both proponents and opponents) about different forms of states and governments, especially their implications and governance dynamics.
The report also says the implementation of decentralization has been sub-optimal and unsatisfactory and that better implementation with some significant reforms or modifications could help address concerns related to the distribution of development projects and delivery of public goods and services at the gassroots.
Among the recommendations, PAC says government should take due cognizance of the issues that cause discomfort, discontent and despair among Malawians as they clearly constitute a recipe for anti-system or anti-establishment movement and are genuine that require attention and redress by the authorities.
“The government should, through relevant authorities, pronounce itself on how it will address each of the key factors that cause discomfort, discontent and despair among Malawians.
“The government, through the PSRC in collaboration with the Public Administration Sector Working Group and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development should find innovative ways for implementing in full the National Decentralization programme covering the devolution of political and administrative authority as well as fiscal decentralization to the local government councils, particularly of the development budget.
Rather than a radical migration to a federal scheme of the state, government should embark on progressive devolution within a unitary scheme,” says PAC in the report.–(Additional reporting by Owen Khamula, Nyasa Times)Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :