Malawi Catholic bishops issue pastoral letter: Vote for leaders not looters

Catholic bishops in Malawi have issued a pastoral statement—read on Sunday—in which they have spoken against wrongful self-enrichment by leaders in governing party in relation to the cashgate scandal and also appealed to Malawians to usher in visionary leaders at all levels during next year’s tripartite elections.

The bishops’ voice also tacked on the country’s impending 50 years of independence for former colonial master Britain, saying there is still a long way to go for the country to gain real independence couple with economic sovereignty.

The pastoral letter, dated December 1, 2013 made available to Nyasa Times, is signed by all Catholic bishops, including Bishop Joseph Zuza, chairperson of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and bishop for Mzuzu Diocese; his vice Thomas Msusa of Zomba Diocese, Tarcisius Ziyaye of LiLongwe Archdiocese, Thomas Msusa Blantyre Archdiocese; Peter Musikuwa of Chikhwawa Diocese, Emmanuel Kanyama of Dedza Diocese; Alessandro Pagani of Mangochi Diocese, Reverend Montfort Stima Auxiliary Bishop of Blantyre and Diocesan Administrator and  Dr. Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese.

Bishops of the influential Catholic Church

The influential church in Malawi noted that there are some worrisome trends in the country’s democratization and emancipation project.

“To this extent, it is not surprising that we are hearing of voices labelling our democratization project as a change without transformation and a democracy without democrats,” reads the pastoral letter in part.

The bishops observe that there is limited adherence to the rule of law and limited compliance to the practice of the separation of powers and lapses in the promotion and safeguarding of people’s rights.

They also noted “continued occurrences of witch-hunting and arbitrary arrests of government critics without thorough investigation or recourse to natural justice and efforts to side-line and remove political competitions from the electoral race.”

The bishops also speak against the abuse of power by parties in government with much interest in centralized power than in creating an enabling environment for citizen participation in governance and development processes that affect the future and destiny of the nation

They also noted that there is “limited responsiveness, accountability and weak public goods de-livery by government systems and structures.”

The pastoral statement also note about a “growing culture of hand-clapping and praise-singing even when the ones being praised have merely done their duty.”

The Catholic bishops are also concerned with the cashgate scandal that is bedevilling the Joyce Banda administration, noting the “continued and systematic abuse and looting of public re-sources for selfish party and personal benefit to the detriment of the national good.”

They further observe that the entrenchment of politics of poverty and exploitation “where the poor are more and more lured into a culture of hand-outs than being empowered to become self- reliant.”

The Bishops also criticised the politicization of development initiatives and business opportunities “coupled with seemingly lack of an agreed national vision and development agenda that cuts across the political divide.”

They noted that Malawi continue to lag behind most African countries in terms of development, saying the nation need to change the way things are done and recover original vision of independence.

The statement said with Malawi next year celebrating Golden Jubilee Celebrations for the independence and Tripartite Elections scheduled for May, it is the nation’s “golden opportunity to re-examine our national conscience, recover our original vision, redefine our destiny and forge ahead. Of paramount importance in this strengthening of our destiny are the issues of quality leadership, citizen participation, national development agenda and national values. It is to these that we now focus our attention.”

Leadership

The bishops pointed out that God is proposing that Malawi should have “a transformative leadership.”

The said God recommends leadership that is visionary, transformative, empowering, caring, serving, protective, people-centred and obedient to Him.

“Leadership among God’s people is service and not lordship,” the noted.

“It is not enough to have quality leadership if this is not inspired and anchored by a national development agenda. Some development initiatives and strategies are clearly national in form and transformative in nature and, therefore, need to be depoliticized and continued irrespective of whichever government is in place,” the statement reads.

Patriotism

The bishops said Malawi needs “quality leadership that is capable of sacrificing self-interests for the common good.”

Reads the statement: “We strongly believe that our nation today needs to rediscover the spirit of patriotism and active participation in the national development and emancipation agenda. Today’s rampant plundering of the country’s resources and the growing trends of corruption reflect poorly on the quality of our love for the Motherland.

“Patriotism in our present circumstances also entails: exercising our democratic right to register and vote for quality leadership; actively taking part in shaping and implementing the developmental agenda of our country; and holding accountable the people we elect and put in positions of power.

“If we want to build a nation that is prosperous, we propose that our national agenda should be inspired by values that are anchored by four key principles: the dignity of the human person; the common good; option for the poor; and empowerment,” say the bishops.

God-fearing leader

The bishops say a good leader must believe in the fundamental goodness, freedom and dignity of all people and each person.

“Genuine democratic leaders will consult and listen to others, will appropriately delegate, share power, make corporate decisions and give credit where it belongs.

“Being a God-fearing nation, Malawi needs leaders who are genuinely God-fearing respecting human and faith values including those of a moral order of the people they serve. Leaders should be honest, trustworthy, fair, and truthful, with a good reputation and integrity;

“Have clear ideas on how to respond to issues of contraception, population control, homosexual unions, abortion and secularism as Malawi is a God-fearing nation.”

The bishops say the Golden Jubilee celebration will challenge Malawians to earnestly reflect whether indeed what the nation has achieved so far tallies with the age 50.

“It is imperative that at 50, every Malawian should be enjoying the conditions of social life that are brought about by the quest for the common good. The challenge before us is to see how much we have cooperated with God in realizing our dreams. We began with a dream of a politically and economically independent Malawi with God’s help, we should not attempt to realize this dream independently from God himself,” reads the statement.

Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi Fr. George Belaya said the epistle statement was read in all catholic churches on Sunday.

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