Activists say Malawi cash-gate is human rights violation

Human rights activists have described the current cash-gate scandal locking the Malawi Government and the failure by President Joyce Banda administration to acknowledge and get to the bottom of the crisis as a serious human rights violation denying the country’s citizens both development and socio-economic rights.

In a statement released in commemoration of the World Human Rights Day which falls on December 10, human rights bodies-Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP)-specifically expressed concerns over lack of transparency and accountability in the way government was handling the cash-gate scandal.

“We at CHRR and CEDEP remain deeply concerned over the growing public mismanagement of funds as evident in the current cash-gate scandal which has cost the nation of donor funds as well as development,” reads the statement jointly signed by Timothy Mtambo, CHRR acting Executive Director and John Trapence CEDEP Executive Director.

Adds the statement: “We view the shoddy fiscal deals that have characterized the Capital Hill as unfortunate and serious human rights violation. The Joyce Banda administration continued failure to acknowledge the crisis and allow the principles of accountability and transparency to guide and inform her government’s attempts to go to the bottom of the cash-gate saga remain a serious human rights violation- that all patriotic Malawians must be concerned with.”

Mtambo: Cashgate is human rights violations

CHRR and CEDEP observe that today there is a heightened awareness and growing demand for a greater transparency and accountability from governments by the people across the world, and “any government that tends to conceal vital information as is the case in the current cash-gate saga has no place in a democratic and human rights dispensation.”

The two bodies also say that the absence of access to information legislation, the continued failure by the President to declare her assets as a democratic and human rights obligation all impinge on the public’s demand for a greater transparency and accountability.

“Malawians are tired of being denied of their socio-economic rights and right to development particularly for the past 19 years due to selfishness of a few, who do not care a hoot about the plight of the common man,” says the statement.

Malawi goes to elections next year and the country’s Human Rights Day Theme is Free and Fair 2014 Tripartite Election, My Right, My Responsibility.

However, the statement comes under the headline; 2013 International Human Rights Day: 20 Years Working for Your Right-Reflecting the Past, Present and Future in Light of 1993 Vienna Consensus: A Re-Affirmed Call for Malawi Government to Protect and Promote all Universal Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as Her Human Rights Obligations.

The statement also raises issues with the country’s public media which it says is skewed towards the government, a situation CHRR and CEDEP say must be treated with utmost urgency as it is likely to affect the free and fair 2014 elections.

“Despite showing some signs of change where some opposition figures have on some few occasions covered, MBC (Malawi Broadcasting Corporation) has resorted to the old ways of doing things in the process infringing on the rights of the taxpayers who happen to belong from different political backgrounds,” reads the statement.

The statement also calls upon the Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to speed up the process on ensuring that all media houses that were accorded TV licenses like Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) and Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) roll out on in time to ensure free and fair 2014 elections.

CHRR and CEDEP, however, joins the United Nations which observed that state funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) over the recent years has become more independent and authoritative in exerting influence on governance and has in several instances worked hand in hand with the Civil in the scenario where there are gross human rights violations.

 

“So passionate has the Commission been in its human rights obligation that some of her personalities have on some occasions been labeled by some politicians as harbouring political ambitions. The case of John Kapito (Former Chairperson of MHRC) and Bingu Wa Mutharika (Former President of Malawi) attests to this,” reads the statement.

CHRR and CEDEP also bemoaned government tendency of demonizing the work of the civil society in a bid to woe the public against the civil society in their quest for protection and promotion of human rights.

The statement said this has been evident when once government described CSOs as gay rights activists while lately they were labelled as Satanists following the launch of the Black Monday in protest of the current economic meltdown due to lack of government’s financial discipline.

CHRR and CEDEP also express concerns that despite the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals being placed on the international agenda, Malawi’s legal framework remains hostile to the LGBT community a scenario that is exposing the group to various forms of discrimination.

“While initially showing some commitments towards abolishing existing laws that decriminalize homosexuality, President Banda has not helped matters by remaining mute on the matter,” reads the statement.

CHRR and CEDEP add that contrary to the human rights conventional norm, some of Malawi’s big political parties United Democratic Front (UDF), Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and Peoples Party have even gone to the extent of subjecting the issue of minority LGBT to a proposed referendum, where the majority of Malawians should choose on whether to maintain the status quo or not.

“Appealing to the democratic principle of majority rule to justify a referendum over an issue of the minority LGBT is not only sheer ignorance of the very core and spirit of democracy but rather a scape-goat over addressing the issue once and for all.

“We at CHRR and CEDEP will not relent in pressing all the Presidential candidates to declare their position on how they address outstanding matters on LGBT as their human rights obligation,” says the statement.

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