Malawi CSOs hit back at critics: ‘Citizenry have turned into spectators’

Some Civil Society Organisations leaders in Malawi have hit back at their critics who have of late accused them of being passive in taking government to task, arguing that the blame should be extended to the citizenry who have often played the role of a spectator in the face of cashgate saga and other pressing issues affecting the nation.

Various local radio stations in Malawi have recently been hosting talk-shows where a majority of callers have been attacking the Civil Society for what they called ‘lack of aggression’ in taking government to task on a number of burning issues as they used to do with the Bingu Wa Mutharika administration.

But in an interview with Malawi News, Council of Non-governmental Organisation (CONGOMA) Executive Director Voice Mhone, while admitting some laxity in the CSOs approach, deflected the blame back to the public.

Mtambo:  We need public support
Mtambo: We need public support
Voice Mhone:  CSOs remain effective watchdog
Voice Mhone: CSOs remain effective watchdog

“To some extent we have not been as vibrant and vigilant as we were during the DPP regime just because we provided government space to do things differently, but they only abused that privileged,” he said.

Mhone said the Civil Society have not failed the people of Malawi.

“In fact it is the other way round, it’s the citizenry who have failed CSOs to mount pressure on the current regime to account on Presidential Jet, rotten maize and cashgate. Malawians have turned into spectators rather than actors on demanding their rights,” Said outspoken Mhone while citing some of the remarkable strides registered by the current regimes such as the fuel reserves as fruits of the efforts of the CSOs.

In a separate interview with Nyasa Times, the Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Timothy Mtambo concurred with CONGOMA boss that the citizens have been docile while at the same time pointing at the weakness of the current opposition which had in turn rendered the civil society vulnerable.

“In this country we have a weak opposition which makes the CSOs vulnerable because they are made to look like the opposition”.

Responding to the question of how CHRR would assess the general public reaction to Cashgate saga and other recent emerging issues like Presidential Jet sale, Mtambo said: “It’s like business as usual. Malawians are too quiet as a result their leaders have capitalised on that to continue stamping on their hard-earned rights.

“Civil Society needs the backing of the general public in order to effectively exercise its advocacy and lobbying role when engaging government on burning issues of national interest. Malawians need to have a social accountability movement”

While admitting that CSOs have not always been perfect in their discharging of their public role, CHRR boss cites the prevailing economic meltdown which has not spared the Civil society as partly behind their failure to effectively carryout their advocacy and lobbying role at national level.

“It would be naïve and gullible enough on our part to suggest that we have always been perfect in our discharging of roles. There have certainly been moments where some of our modus operandi has left a lot to be desired. However, this is partly due to the limited resources we have been experiencing of the recent past due to the prevailing economic meltdown which have made it difficult to effectively carryout some advocacy and lobbying initiatives including public awareness and mobilisation on the various issues of national interest. All in all, with the limited resources the Civil Society in Malawi has to some greater extent endeavoured to successfully perform its rightful roles despite lacking the  much-needed citizenry backing who have tended to adopt ‘a business-as –usual’ approach in the midst of gross violations to their right to development as evident in the cashgate saga” argued Mtambo.

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