Civil Society statement on the political transition in Malawi

Introduction

We, members of the civil society organizations in Malawi, are saddened with the untimely death of the late Prof. Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika who until his death was the father and President of the Malawi Nation. On behalf of the civil society organizations we would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Madam Calista  Mutharika, the Mutharika’s family and the entire Malawi nation for the loss of the our beloved Malawi leader. Therefore, we call upon all Malawians to remain united at this trying moment as we mourn the former Head of State.

In the same vein, we wish to congratulate all Malawians for the peaceful political transition. In particular, we commend Malawians for accepting to abide by the Constitution in ushering Her Excellency Madam Joyce Mtila Banda then Vice President to the office of the President of the Republic of Malawi. We congratulate the President elect for taking up the mantle of leadership and we wish her all the success in her new position.

However, knowing that Malawi is going through numerous challenges, it is imperative that we cautiously raise key issues to the current administration to consider as matters of priority.

Guard of honour: President Joyce Banda

 Key Issues

 1.       Management of Bilateral and Multi-lateral Relations

We note that the current administration has a huge task ahead to mend fences with the bilateral and multi-lateral cooperating institutions and agencies. This is against the background that the previous administration undermined the role of such institutions and agencies in supporting Malawi’s development agenda. Therefore, we call upon Her Excellency Madam Joyce Mtila Banda to engage in a constructive discussion with these agencies in order to unlock funding that was withheld for the country. We reiterate that donor support is key to Malawi’s development and that mutual diplomatic relations is critical in sustaining not only donor confidence but also in leveraging support for our development agenda.

 2.       Dealing with Structural Re-arrangements

We are aware that the new administration comes up with its own strategic public service appointments. This being the case, we impress upon Her Excellency in ensuring that these appointments are made on merit as opposed to political appeasement. As civil society, we take note that the previous administration was largely based on nepotistic appointments which to a greater extent contributed to the collapse of government and other state institutions. In addition, we feel that an inclusive government would be ideal not only in promoting national unity but also in winning public trust and confidence.

 3.       Matters of State Accountability

We appreciate the good will demonstrated by Her Excellency in her acceptance speech that she will not take a revenge on members of the previous administration as part of the national reconciliation and building. However, we would like to indicate that matters of accountability and justice do not equal vengeance in which case, it is the expectation of Malawians that the current administration must investigate and/or prosecute any malpractices or abuse of public offices by the previous administration. We underscore the fact that revenge does not imply exemption from due legal process of accountability.

4.       Follow up on the July 20 Petition

We would like to remind the current administration that some issues raised in the July 20 petitions still stand. Of particular concern, are issues to do with acute shortage of forex and fuel, drug shortage, high cost of living, strained donor relations, housing scam, creation of decent jobs and repressive laws among others. While acknowledging that the dialogue process concluded on these matters, there is need for robust implementation of the recommendations. This, in part, calls for effective implementation and monitoring strategy and structures which unfortunately were not yet put in place. We therefore call upon the current administration to ensure that the demands of the citizenry are carefully considered. More so, there is need for constant information and feedback on progress made in order to keep up the trust and confidence of a government that cares for its people.

 5.       Dealing with influx of Members from Other Parties

We are concerned with the rate at which members from various parties in particular the Democratic People’s Party are announcing their allegiance to the People’s Party as a clear indicator of power shift. We are thus wondering whether the massive defections are based on principles or other motives. We are of the view that these defections should be carefully managed in order to strengthen the ruling party and its administration. History manifests that the same arrangement weakened the United Democratic Front and so is the Democratic Progressive Party. In view of this, we suggest that there must be careful reflection on members joining the party in the name of ‘having consulted the constituents’ when in fact they are serving personal interests.

 6.       Call for Professionalism

We bemoan the recent conduct of the Malawi Police Services in violating human rights and undermining the rule of law. The Malawi Police Service is established as a state institution charged with the responsibility to ensure that there is law and order, protection of people’s lives and property include being an instrument to uphold the human dignity of every Malawian. Of late, we have observed that the Malawi Police Service has discharged its function in unprofessional conduct by way of violating the rights of the citizens. As such, we welcome the appointment of the new Inspector General of Police, Mr. Loti Dzonzi who we are aware is a long serving accomplished professional. We however, appeal to the new IG to expeditiously correct the image of the Malawi Police Service and serve the people of Malawi as per the mandate of the institution in line with the current political and democratic dispensation. Notwithstanding the preceding, the current administration is also urged to appoint the Deputy IG, and institute the Independent Police Commission as part of strategic reform.

 7.       Re-constitution of Commissioners at MEC and MHRC

We note that the term of office for the Commissioners at Malawi Electoral Commission expired two months ago while that of the Malawi Human Rights Commission is expiring in May this year. Usually it has taken too long to re-appoint new commissioners which has in turn affected the smooth running of operations. Considering that we have tripartite elections in 2014, we call upon Her Excellency, Madam Joyce Mtila Banda to expedite the appointment of the said commissioners to ensure that the preparations for the elections do not pose a major challenge because of inadequate preparations. In addition, we impress upon the new administration to ensure that there is thorough consultations with other political parties as required by the law. Similarly, the Human Rights Commission is one such an institution that is important in promoting, protecting and upholding human rights. We therefore call upon the current administration to ensure that the appointments are done without due delay.

 8.       Dissolution of NGO and NICE Boards

We are aware that the previous administration constituted the NGO and NICE Boards with disregard of law and donor interests respectively. This demonstrates failure by the previous administration in respecting legal requirements and donor contractual obligations. As a result, the previous administration has put funding for NICE on hold long enough than it could have been resolved. Consequently, it has led to denial of access to information by the general public. In view of this, we call upon Her Excellency to immediately dissolve and re-constitute the respective boards particularly in consideration of the anomalies the previous administration had overlooked.

 9.       Management of Commissions of Inquiries

There have been a number of commissions of inquiries before whose results have not been brought to the public domain. The fact that they were instituted by the previous administration does not negate their essence.  For instance, among others, the Malawi nation is still waiting for the findings of the commission of inquiry on Robert Chasowa whose mysterious death right at the Polytechnic College campus left Malawians wondering whether the citizenry are guaranteed of their security. Similarly, the findings of the killings and assault of innocent Malawians during the July 20 demonstrations at the hands of the police are also long overdue. We would therefore like to appeal to the current administration to ensure that the Commissions finalize their work and that the public is made aware of the findings of these inquiries. The rationale for finalizing these processes is not only to ensure that justice is done but is also meant to help the country to prevent future occurrences.

 10.   Repositioning the Role of Chiefs in Malawi’s Politics

We are saddened that the role of the chiefs was misconceived by the previous administration. We all witnessed how the chiefs played partisan politics which was uncalled for. In some cases, chiefs were used to propagate policies that only served interests of politicians thereby rendering their role questionable. While chiefs would support government of the day, the jurisdiction of their line of duty should clearly border around serving the interests of their subjects without discrimination or favour. Against this background, we appeal to this administration to responsibly work with the chiefs purely on development agenda. It would also be timely if the Chiefs Act was reviewed and passed to arrest the existing gaps in the law in order to effectively regulate them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we recommend that the current administration should cultivate the spirit of ensuring that they win the trust and confidence of the people of Malawi. In the same vein, we urge the new administration to be accommodative and tolerant to the wishes of Malawians as cardinal principles of democracy. We also impress upon this administration to institute fiscal discipline to protect meager resources that Malawi is able to generate against myriad needs of the citizenry. Therefore, we expect the new administration to redouble its energy in dealing with corruption.

 

 

We, the undersigned:

 

Church and Society Programme, Nkhoma Synod

Church and Society Programme of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia

Civic and Political Space Platform Human Rights Consultative Committee

Human Rights Defenders (Malawi Chapter)

The Governance Platform

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