Malawi government has given a secular response to Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) on its pastoral letter giving guidance to the flock to vote on May 21 a leader that will respect the Constitution, has no record of corruption, will unify Malawians and will not protect thieves, mafias and looters of public resources.
In a statement issues on Wednesday and signed by Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Minister Henry Musa, made available to Nyasa Times, the government hits at Nkhoma Synod that its attempt to insert further itself into politics is wrong and potentially dangerous.
But the Synod’s spiritual father Reverend Bizwick Nkhoma said its pastoral letter was directed at its membership not for argument with government.
Mussa, who is government spokesperson, said the State feels it has an obligation to comment on the pastoral letter where, in expressing its opinion, the church has “misplaced facts, abdicated from shared responsibility and created erroneous impressions.”
He said while the church is free in guiding its flock, the guidance should be “embracing not alienating”.
Reads in part the government statement: “Malawi is a multi-faith society. A member of any faith grouping is free to participate in an election and seek office. The church, therefore, should not suggest in its pastoral pronouncements that some people, because of their faith, are more equal and entitled than others.”
Vote of no confidence in Mutharika
Government has also rebutted synod’s assertions on the fact that six of incumbent President Peter Mutharika’s challengers include two of his Cabinet members, notably estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima (UTM) and Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi (UDF) is a vote of no confidence in him, especially considering that the duo is accusing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration of rampant corruption.
Further, Nkhoma Synod notes that it is ironical that Chilima—a former corporate executive who rose to the post of Airtel Malawi managing director before Mutharika roped him into active politics in February 2014 to be his running mate—and Muluzi feel they can each rule Malawi better despite being part of the government they criticise. The letter points out that the Cabinet members were using State resources for their campaign.
Mussa said the synod is “mistaken” to make that assertion.
“A church should be a fountain and safeguard of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. As such, instead of misconstruing the veracity of the situation, the synod should be commending the President for being exceptionally tolerant and democratic in being able to work and accommodate his competitors. This is good and unprecedented,” reads the statement.
No higher moral ground
Government has also hit back at the church for condemning it of corruption, saying the Synod has no moral higher ground because it was involved in the misappropriation of donor funds meant for water, sanitation and hygiene project five years ago.
It reads in part: “Corruption is a serious problem which continues to gnaw at the fabric of our society. Nkhoma Synod should be the first to acknowledge the seriousness of this problem as it has not spared even places where the nation should be turning to for deliverance.
“The synod will recall that in 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USaid) demanded that the church should refund money amounting to K61, 886 389.11 siphoned through fraud that hit a water, sanitation and hygiene project USaid financed and which the synod was implementing.
“Actually, the Nkhoma synod general secretary (at the time) Reverend Vasco Kachipapa was quoted in the Weekend Nation edition of June 15, 2014 as saying, ‘the church is in shame.’ This is just one example of the extent of corruption and justifies the call by Government on those who love to criticise to stop finger pointing, to refrain from holier than thou behaviour and join hands in order that together we can form a concerted and robust effort of fighting the vice.”
Njauju murder puzzle
The Synod also raised concerns of defeat to justice for killers of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) corporate affairs director Issa Njauju, believed to be regime thugs in the corridors of power.
Njauju was killed on July 4 2015 and his body was found half-buried behind the presidential villas in Lilongwe while his official vehicle was burnt to ashes at Mtsiriza, a peri-urban township west of Area 47 in the capital city.
Following the murder, several donor countries, including the UK, immediately condemned what was deemed a politically motivated killing and rallied behind embattled staff at the ACB.
Motives of the murder remain unknown just as the identities of those behind the heinous crime.
Government has over the years come under intense public pressure to bring to justice those responsible.
In the statement, Mussa said the matter is still under investigation.
“Government needs all the assistance including information to have this matter concluded. The synod is welcome to assist in this important investigation,” said Mussa.
Echoing Catholics call for new era
The Nkhoma letter has come after Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Catholic Diocese challenged the electorate to free themselves from “this slavery and dehumanising poverty” by voting for leaders who can change the country’s direction.
During a Chrism Mass at St Joseph the Worker Cathedral in Karonga, the bishop urged Malawians not to vote for corrupt leaders in the elections.
In April 2018, Catholic bishops in the country, under the umbrella of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), said Malawi needed a change of direction, lamenting that the hard-won democracy was not yielding the fruits people anticipated.
The pastoral letter observed that 54 years after independence, Malawians were still wallowing in poverty as the few “exercise power band enjoy wealth at the expense of the majority”.
In their 16-page Pastoral Letter titled ‘A Call for a New Era in Malawi’, the bishops said: “We are of the opinion that Malawi, as a nation, needs a change of direction if we are to reverse the situation.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :