Two civil society organisations (CSOs) have criticised President Peter Mutharika’s remarks on the $453 million Salima-Lilongwe Water Supply Project when he hit at development partners for interfering in its implementation.
Speaking at Biwi Triangle in Lilongwe last week, Mutharika said the Salima-Lilongwe Water Supply Project awarded to Khato Civils Limited of Simbi Phiri, which seeks to pump water from Lake Malawi to the capital city, was a government initiative to ensure that the people of Lilongwe have access to water supply.
Mutharika said development partners should not to sabotage the water project.
“Let me tell them, you are here not to run this country. This country is a sovereign nation. The water project will continue and within four or five years it will be completed. There is no other choice on the water crisis,” he said.
But Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), in a joint statement made available to Nyasa Times, the two organisations decscribed President Mutharika’s remarks as “xenophobic.”
Reads the statement in part: “CHRR and CEDEP find such attacks by the President ill-informed, misplaced and undemocratic. The President should be the last citizen to demonstrate aversion towards transparency and accountability on development projects in the magnitude of the Salima-Lilongwe Water project.”
The rights groups pointed out that he President took an oath to uphold and safeguard the Constitution of Malawi which is firmly founded on an open democratic governance, as stipulated in Chapter III.
“As such, the President must desist from displaying vestiges of intolerance and dictatorship on matters of national importance,” the statement signed by CHRR and Cedep executive directors Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence respectively, said.
CHRR and CEDEP also reminded the State President that donors; be it bilateral or multilateral, have contributed to the development of this country ever since colonial times.
“Indeed, donors have supported different development projects like construction of hospitals, schools and other infrastructures of national importance. They have also assisted with funds for recurrent government expenditure.
“Simply put, the importance of donors and their contributions to national development in Malawi needs not be overemphasized. Donors and development partners are, thus, justified to demand transparency and accountability in the Salima- Lilongwe water project taking into account the issues of corruption that have become prevalent and have contributed to long-standing poverty in the country,” reads the statement.
The two groups noted that the President’s attacks are reminiscent of his conduct during the early days of the maize-gate saga in which former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda, was implicated.
“The President was in the fore-front exonerating Chaponda by telling off well-meaning Malawians including the media and civil society who demanded a probe into the issue. It however turned out that Chaponda finally got arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau following the recommendations from Commission of Inquiry instituted by the President himself. To mean, the President was proved wrong by his own Commission,” reads the statement.
CHRR and Cedep are therefore calling upon President Mutharika to withdraw such remarks and issue an unconditional apology to the development partners and donors.
“He should also desist from uttering such remarks in future. We expect a citizen elected into the office of the President to have the sophistication of aura and decorum and not make statements that may have a corrosive effect on the constitutionalism of Malawi.”
CHRR and Cedep said 23 years after a return to multiparty democracy, Malawians will not accommodate remarks that risk taking the country back to one party era when voices of transparency and accountability demands were met with scorn and heavy-handedness.
The Lilongwe-Salima water project has brought divisions among civil society activists such that Billy Mayaya, the Reverend Macdonald Sembereka and Rodgers Newa who have alleged that the development partners were condemning the contract awarding process and other alleged flouted procedures related to the project because they were not happy that they had no control over the project.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :