Malawi’s renowned human rights and governance activist Timothy Mtambo has cautioned President Peter Mutharika that he risks losing legitimacy to govern if he continues betraying the public trust and stated that no President including Mutharika is immune to resignation under the circumstances of loss of public trust as provided by law.
Mtambo made these observations through a Nyasa Times questionnaire response in reaction to Mutharika’s spokesperson Gerald Viola’s insistence that Mutharika would not take head to the recent calls by CSOs and other concerned Malawians that he consider honoUrably stepping down if he continues to fail Malawians.
Some active Civil society organisations, activists and human rights defenders in Malawi at a news conference in Lilongwe challenged Mutharika to consider resigning or take charge and bail out the country in the current economic mess.
However, Presidential spokesperson Viola quashed CSOs demands stating that Mutharika was mandated and elected by majority of Malawians (36%) during the 2014 elections unline the “unelected” CSO’s .
He added that the CSOs should form a political party to contest for election in 2019 than being in Civil Society.
However, Mtambo, who is also one of the activists signatory to the CSOs statement, said Viola’s insinuation that the President was immune from resignation but only through the ballot eviction during an election was a “narrowistic viewpoint “ to the law and lack of knowledge of the principle of social contract, as ably represented in the constitution, which guide the trust-based relationship between those that govern and the governed.
“No President including Mutharika is immune to resignation under the circumstances of loss of public trust as provided by law. In fact, the law provides for such a scenario. While Section 6 of the Constitution stipulates that ‘the authority to govern derives from people of Malawi as expressed through universal suffrage in elections held in accordance with the Constitution, section 12 (iii) states that the authority to exercise power of state is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent government and informed democratic choice. ‘
“The two sections clearly show that a government that has not been elected through universal suffrage does not have the authority to govern; and that a government that no longer has the sustained trust of the people, regardless of the fact that it might have been duly elected through universal suffrage, has no authority to govern, and people have the mandate to remove it in accordance with the law,” said Mtambo, who is also the executive director of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).
Added Mtambo: “The principle of social contract further requires that those that govern acknowledge their weaknesses and be able to voluntarily leave power, with dignity, whenever those that are governed no longer have trust or confidence in them, and thus require them to leave office. This is very clear, and as such It is surprising to see the President and his village of advisors venting their ‘executive anger’ on the CSOs instead of doing some soul-searching in order to know why the President was fastly losing public trust and in the process risk losing the legitimacy to govern.”
The CHRR boss observed that it was such political patronage behaviour that had made Malawi leaders become complacent at the expense of the public interest.
“It is such mediocre thinking that has made our country retrogressive. No wonder our leaders can sleep on the job and instead trump on the civil and economic rights of their people with impunity under the pretext that they will only be held accountable at the next election.”said the outspoken Mtambo.
Mtambo also faulted Viola’s claims that the majority of Malawians mandated Mutharika to rule the country hence his continued political and economic extravagance.
“Being voted by the majority of Malawians is no excuse let alone a licence to indulge in political and economic extravagance at the expense of the plight of the poor people.
“Besides, what majority is Viola bragging about? A 36% ‘simple majority’? While it is a fact that President Mutharika was democratically elected by 36% of voters, it is also a fact that 64% of Malawians rejected him or had serious doubts in his credentials of taking Malawi to economic and governance prosperity hence putting his legitimacy into question.
“So instead of bragging about such a simple majority, which is of course not a majority at all, Viola and those in the ruling party should be busy on strategizing on ways on how to convince and win the 64% that doubted Mutharika’s credibility, and most of which still doubt his leadership to-date, a scenario which is even worsened by the fact that many even in the acquired 36% have lost trust in his leadership due to his current poor governance record. And this can only be done by matching rhetoric with concrete action.”
In response to Viola’s accusation that CSOs have no mandate to represent the people, Mtambo told Nyasa Times: “Viola’s statement clearly shows that he doesn’t understand the definition of Civil Society and also the pivotal role and space the Civil Society plays in the promotion of democratic governance. This is very dangerous for a person of his calibre who is also supposed to be a close advisor to the President. His words only confirms the existing strategy that Mutharika’s regime is implementing to stifle the voice, place and operations of CSOs particularly those working in the democratic governance realm.
“For example, just recently we have seen the Mutharika regime using the NGO board and NGO law as a political tool to silence or stifle the critical voices in the CSOs. We are closely observing the developments, and we will not just sit down but rather strongly stand for the democratic values we have all along been associated with and say no to tyranny. Besides, Viola should tell us if the issues that are raised in the recent statement by CSOs are not of public concern?”
However, when asked by Nyasa Times on his reaction to President’s press officer singling him out as aspiring Mutharika’s seat, Mtambo laughed it off and said this only confirmed that DPP’s DNA had not changed.
“Well I am not surprised with my singling out. Many reputable activists and religious leaders like my predecessor Undule Mwakasungura, John Kapito, Billy Mayaya, Benedicto Kondowe, Gift Trapence, Rafik Hajat, Rev. Mezuwa Banda, late Bishop Zuza just to mention a few were time and again publicly singled out by the then DPP regime to the extent that the former President indicated that some were aspiring his position. All these claims that CSOs have no mandate to represent the people were already said by the then DPP regime, and are hence just being echoed by the current regime.
“So it’s not surprising. To me it only shows that the DPP’s DNA has not changed. However, what I can tell Mr Viola and friends is that the Constitution of Malawi is clear on what happens when there is a vacancy in the position of the Presidency including a vacancy created following an honourable resignation due to lack of public trust. Clearly, this has nothing to do with Timothy Mtambo. However, I am not moved an inch. I am charged up for this noble service in the best interest of all Malawians of goodwill and human rights for all. Together with my collegues in the CSOs we will vigilantly fulfil and honour our calling to public service and resist the temptation of sacrificing our social accountability calling on the altar of mediocrity and patronage,” said Mtambo
Reacting to calls by Mutharika’s regime for dialogue between CSOs and government over the current economic and governance woes, Mtambo added that as CSOs they have always been open to any constructive dialogue that is done in good faith, trust and respect rather than that made to stifle the voice of the CSOs as had been the trend in the past.
“We in the Civil Society have always been open to constructive dialogue that is done in good faith, trust and respect and most importantly in the best interest of Malawians rather than dialogue that is meant to stifle the voice of the CSOs as it has recently been observed.
“Just a good example is the January 13th demonstration 22 point petition where recommended for government to constitute a dialogue Civil Society and government dialogue platform where the issues raised in the petition and beyond would be discussed. However, this was trashed and ignored and till to-date we are yet to get any response from government.”
Mtambo said it is “a misrepresentation of facts” for those in government to allege that CSOs shun dialogue.
“We have been and we shall always be ready for meaningful dialogue, and where dialogue process doesn’t realise the intended aspirations of Malawians we shall always resort to other democratically and constitutionally guaranteed avenues,” said Mtambo.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :