Remarks by Bishop Sitima PAC leader at audience with Speaker of Malawi Parliament

Hon  Speaker, Sir,  on  behalf  of  the  delegation   I  wish  to  express  our  appreciation  for  allowing  us  to  come  and  see  you  today  despite  your  busy  schedule.  We  are  also  gratified  to  be  here  in  this  magnificent  building  where  honourable  people  deliberate  national  issues.  We    thank  you  for  the hospitality  surrounding  our  meeting  today.

The  objective  of  this  appointment  with  you, Hon. Speaker,   is to learn  from  you  what  have  been  the  key  impediments  to  the  implementation  of   S65  during  your  administration. Secondly, PAC  wishes  to  advocate  for  the  passing  into  law of the  electoral  amendments  that  are  being  harmonised  by  the  Malawi   Electoral  Commission  to  enable  the  holding  of  Tripartite  Elections. Of  course  there  are  other  issues  we  wish  to  raise  with  you  so  that  you  are  aware  what  delegates  said  during  the  Second  All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conference  held  on 30-31  October, 2012.  But  before  we  detail  these  issues  allow  us  to  briefly  outline  PAC’s  strategic  goals.

His Grace Bishop Sitima led the PAC delegation

PAC as a civil society organization needs no introduction to you, Sir , since it has evolved together with the political processes in the new multiparty dispensation.  The organization has maintained its original objectives which are among other things:

  1. To encourage religious bodies to fulfill their prophetic and religious roles, and respond to the socio-economic and political affairs of the Republic of Malawi
  2. To promote peace and tranquility in the Republic of Malawi;
  3. To promote the rule of law and human rights in the Republic of Malawi
  4. To  enter into and maintain a dialogue with any person, political body or any other institution in the Republic of Malawi regarding any issues of concern to the nation;

It  is  the  latter  that  brings  us  here  today   to  share  issues  of  concern  that  emerged  from  the  All-Inclusive  Stakeholders  Conferences  held  in  March  and   October  2012.  These conferences drew delegates from different sectors and  political  parties. Before  I  go  into  some  observations  and  resolutions,  allow   me   to  take  you  through  the  advocacy  processes  we  have  gone  through  since  March, 2012.

You  may  be  aware  of the  fact  that  Malawi  faced  serious  challenges  both  economically  and  politically  since  2010.  Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) organized mass demonstrations that  led  to  the  death  of  20 people  which  resulted  to   national  dialogue  between  CSOs  and  Government. As  PAC  we  noted  that   things  were  not  improving  till  early  2012. We  resolved  to  organize   an  All-Inclusive  Conference  at  Limbe  Cathedral  to  define  a  common  strategy  and  agenda on  the  political  and  economic  direction  of  the  country.  Many  observations  were  made  from the  conference.  The  most  important   of  all  were  resolution  to  concretize  the  way  forward.  The  following  were  the  resolutions  made  by  PAC  Board  :

  1. To establish   a    Special  Committee  on  Political , Economic  and  Constitutional  Reforms (  members  would   include  some  delegates   who  attended  the  conference)
  2. To establish  a   Committee  on    Constructive Engagement  with  the  Head  of  State (  members  would  include  some  delegates  who  attended   the conference)
  3. To organize  a  follow-up  Conference   to   continue  enhancing  broad-  based  dialogue  among  stakeholders
  4. To  refine  a  PAC  multi-year  strategy  document   to  focus on  activities  leading  to  2014

The   meeting  with  Her  Excellency  Joyce  Banda  on  14 November, 2012 therefore   marked   the   implementation   of   Resolution  No. 2  above, that  is  , to  constructively  engage  with  the  Head  of  State.  Resolution  No. 3   was  implemented  through  the  holding  of  Second  All-Inclusive Conference  in  October 2012. Within  Resolution  3 , PAC  resolved  to  engage  with  key decision-makers . This  meeting  therefore constitutes  one  of  the  interface  meetings PAC  is  holding. So  far  this  is  the  path  we  have  taken  in  our  advocacy  journey  to  learn  more  on  various  issues . Therefore, in summary, we  have  had  two  major  conferences, one  interface  meeting  with  the  Head  of  State  , now this  meeting ,   to  identify  issues  for  our  advocacy  interventions.

It  is  in  light  of  this,  Honourable  Speaker  ,  that  we  come  here  today  to  share with  you  some  of  the  concerns    Malawians  talked  about   regarding  the  economic  and  political  landscape last  year. We  are aware  that  there  are areas  that  may  have  improved  politically. However ,  Malawians  still  have  concerns  in  the   areas  of  political  governance,  constitutionalism  and  economic  path  under  the  current  administration.  We  therefore  come  here  today   to  outline  selected  issues  of  concern  which  were  also  shared  with Her  Excellency  Joyce  Banda. We  do  this  because  you  may  not  have  shared  notes  on  some  of  these  aspects. But   as  Speaker  of  the  National  Assembly  its  important  to  read  some  of  the  issues  to  you  as  we  did  with  the  Head  of  State:

Political Governance

On  political  governance,  our  last  conference  observed  that  there  is  lack  of   leadership  at  various  levels   to  transform  this  country,  and  therefore ,  Malawi  continues  to  face  underdevelopment  since  its  independence. We  are  not  only  talking  about  political  leadership  but  leadership  at  different  levels of  administration to  transform  our  country. Similarly, we  are  not  talking  about  any  individual  but  a  concept  on  leadership.  To this end,  it  was  recommended  that  Malawi must produce transformational leadership as a prelude to achieving development in all sectors. There is need to institutionalize leadership training in and through academic institutions, civil society organizations, faith based institutions etc for  Malawi  to  be  transformed.  This  seemed  to  have  been  a  key  issue  during    our  conference. We  are  aware  that  it  is  not   your  personal  responsibility alone  but  it    involves  many  players .  We  are  of  the  view  that  generally  Malawi  continue to  lack  strategic  leadership.  People  may  argue  with  us on  this  point but  the  fact  remains  that  we  are  not  sure  whether  our  country  will  see  the  type  of  development  our  friends  in  other  countries  are  experiencing. During  our  conferences  it  was  clear  that  Malawi  lacks  serious  leadership  in  order  to  stir  development.

Constitutionalism: Section  65  

As  regards  constitutionalism,    S65  was  highly  prioritized  by  the  delegates. In  this  regard, delegates noted that there has been a serious lack of political will to invoke section 65 in the eighteen years of the multi-party dispensation of political governance. This  is  unwelcome  development.  It  is  generally  felt that  within  the  current  administration  failure  to  implement  S65  has  been a  deliberate  disregard  of  constitutionalism  despite    technical   excuses  that  have  been  given  at  parliament.

Section  64  of  the  Constitution

Related  to  S65   is   the  issue  of   S64 . It was observed that the repealing of Section 64 of the Constitution in 1995 has caused a constitutional gap in the accountability mechanisms to check the effectiveness of the Members of Parliament. Delegates  felt  that  the  unilateral repeal  of  S64 was  an  unfortunate  disregard  of  the  will  of  the  people  of  Malawi and   a  fundamental  departure  from  principles  of  constitutionalism. This has  also  become  an  issue  to  be  reconsidered  to  enhance  transparency   and  accountability  in  Malawi.   We   feel  that  this  provision  be  re-introduced in  the  republican  Constitution. Honorable  Speaker, Sir, we  are  aware of  the  need  to  have  appropriate  safeguards, and  we are  confident  that  Malawi  can  develop  these  safeguards  .

Autonomy   of  Parliament

We  also  noted  that  the  need  to  concretize  the  autonomy  of  parliament  should be  treated  as  a  priority  for  effective  performance  of   the  parliament. For  instance,  the  parliament  should  be  in  control  of  its  own  budget  and  the  Speaker  should  be  summoning  the  parliament. It  is  our  view  that  the  current  scenario  subjects  the  parliament  too  much  to  the  Executive. We  hope  that  this  issue  will  be  treated  as a  priority.

Tripartite   Elections

The issue  of  tripartite  elections  was  also  deliberated  during  our  conference. We ,  as an  organization, support  the  need  to  hold  tripartite  elections  in  2014.  We  are  impressed  with  the  parliament  for  passing  the  bill  into  law  to enable  Malawi  hold  these  elections. We believe  these  elections  will give Malawians power to run their own affairs  and  will  enhance  participation  of  the  community  in  developmental  work.

Economic  Situation

On  economic  front, it  is  clear  that  there  is  hardship. We  know  that  devaluation  is  a  must  in  our  situation.  However, we  may  need  to  put  adequate  measures  to  lessen  the  hardship.  But  on  a  separate  note,  we  wish  to  emphasise  the  fact  that  devaluation  has  had  a  big  impact  on  people’s  lives. The  government  should  therefore  practice  austerity  measures  to  redirect  savings  towards  mitigating   the  impact  of  devaluation.

There  were  many  more  observations  but  we  selected  a few  of  them.  You  will  see  from  our  communiqué  how  stakeholders  view  some  issues  in  your  administration.

Hon. Speaker  Sir,  we  now  wish  to  focus  on  the  objective  of  this  meeting.

S65  implementation

You  will  recall  that  when  the  PP  government  was  sworn  in , many  MPs  shifted  to  government  side  dumping  their  own  political  parties. We are very much aware of  the  freedom  of  association. However, we  have  S65  of  the  Constitution  of  the  Republic  of  Malawi  and  yet  you  could  not  implement  it  at an  appropriate  time. As PAC ,  our  view  following  the  two  conferences  held  last  year  is  that  Malawians  expected  you  to  take  an  action. We would like  to  know  why  this  failed.

Tripartite   Elections

PAC  would  like  to  thank  Members  of  Parliament  for  passing  Tripartite  elections  Bill  during  the  last  sitting  of  parliament. They  did  a  wonderful  job  for the  benefit  of  Malawians. We  believe  that  honourable  people  should  always  be  honourable  enough  to  do  things  in  the  national  interests. In  this  regard , we  would  also  like  to  advocate  for  the  prioritization  of  passing  into  law  bills  which  aim  at  harmonizing the  constitution;  Presidential,Parliamentary  Elections  Act (PPEA)  and  Local  Government  Elections  Act (LGEA).   This  activity  is   being  pursued  by  the  Taskforce  on  the  Harmonisation  of  electoral  laws   in  which  PAC  is  involved. We  believe  all  the  amendments  that  have  been selected  should  be  passed  into  law  if  the  tripartite  elections  are  to  take  place.  The  amendments  are  the  main  pillars  for  holding  the  elections. We  take  cognizance  that  the  drafting  of  these  bills  has  not  been  finalized but  we  are  sure  that  they  will  be  brought  before  parliament  in  February, 2013.

Constitutional   Reforms

This  aspect  is  not  for   you  as  an  individual  but  we  would  like  to  raise  it   with  you  because  you  are  part  of  government  and  one  of  the  key  decision-makers. You  will  recall  that   in  2007  the Law Commission  produced  a  report  on  the  review  of  the  Constitution.  Up  to  now,  the  recommendations  have  not  been  effected. We  find  it  unfortunate  that  as a country  we  can  manage  to  ignore  such  a  report  after  spending  millions  of  Kwachas  on  consulting  Malawians.  We  feel  this  is  betrayal  to  constitutional  principles. It  is  our  view  that  government  should  reconsider the  recommendations  to  reflect  the  current  constitutional  challenges. We  will  continue  to  advocate for   the  implementation  of  the  constitutional  reforms   with  other  key  stakeholders because  the  said  report  is  very  important.

Once again , congratulations  for  passing  the  law  on  tripartite  elections. We hope that you will continue enacting  other  amendments  relating  to  tripartite  elections.

In  conclusion, we  seek  your  observations  on  the  above  issues  we  have  raised.

We   wish  you  God’s  blessings!

 

By  the  Grace  of  God  We  Shall  Succeed.

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