Brief on CHRR, CEDEP and PACE – NET
The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) remains one of the leading human rights and good governance non-governmental institutions in Malawi. It was founded in February 1995 as a non-profit organization registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. Since 2006, CHRR has enjoyed an observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. CHRR mandate isto advocate, protect and promote good governance, human rights and rule of law in Malawi, SADC and Africa as a whole.
The Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) is a registered human rights organization under the Trustees Incorporation Act of 1962. The organization was established in November 2005 in order to address the needs and challenges of minority groups in Malawi in the context of human rights, health and social development.
The Pan African Civic Educators Network (PACENET) was founded in 1996 as a continental network with technical and financial support from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. However it was registered in Malawi under the Trustees Incorporation Act in March, 2002. PACENET devotes a substantial part of its activities to civic education activities. Its aim therefore is to promote a culture of human rights, consolidate democratic values and principles, good governance, Gender equality and active citizen participation in socio- economic, cultural and political affairs
President Joyce Banda 100 Days in Office
On Tuesday 17th July 2012, the administration of President Mrs. Joyce Banda will clock 100 days in power. Joyce Banda’s constitutional ascendancy to Presidency on 7th April, 2012, following the sudden demise of President Bingu Wa Mutharika on the 5th of April is a major defining moment in the history of Malawi politics. Her peaceful ascendancy to power did not only prove that Malawi democracy is slowly but certainly coming of age but also it signified a major turning point of our destiny as a nation.
With her rise to the reigns of power, a nation that was flirting with a ‘failed state’ verdict was saved, apparently. President Joyce Banda’s reigns inherited a country where virtually everything was but centered on one man, late Professor Ngwanzi Bingu Wa Mutharika, “Chitsulo cha Njanji”. Bingu was one and everything, he was the, Messiah, Mose wa lero, the Politician, the Economists, the Father of the Nation,the Dictator, the Manipulator.
It is not a secret that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government left Malawi heavily bleeding on all fronts be it on governance, human rights, economic and political. Really, everyone wondered whether the DPP government cared about its people it claimed to represent. The nation noticed unpopular and undemocratic bills being passed in parliament with reckless abandon, human rights as were rendered luxurious; embarked on heavy crackdown on human rights defenders, political dissidents were ruthlessly ‘smoked out’ and donors were told to go to hell. It was disaster, it was unfathomable!
The 100 days of President Joyce Banda rule has therefore to a greater extent been spent on trying to mend the fences broken and correct mistakes made by the DPP regime. She has invested more of herenergy and time trying to right the wrongs that DPP government created. She has been up and down trying to fix and mend the diplomatic and international relations, panel beating the ailing economy,convincing our development partners to resume aid to Malawi, improve our human rights environment among other things.
The past 100 days have witness much national changes and development. To considerable extent, the changes and developments have been positive and beneficial, especially in the areas of the good governance and economy. But many negative developments, too, have been experienced which if not checked now might have their negative impact on the country and leave Malawians frustrated and bewildered yet again.
A distinctive and positive feature that has characterized the 100 days of President Joyce Banda administration has been her inclusiveness, contact and dialogue kind of leadership, a direct contrast to her predecessor Prof. Bingu Wa Mutharika. No question this has been a mark in view of her going into power with her People’s Party (PP) as a minority party.
Towards Nation-Healing and Unity
Cognizant of the deep economic, governance and political wounds inflicted on the soul of the country’s nationhood by the DPP administration, President Joyce Banda immediately embarked on a healing mission. In her inaugral speech, she called on Malawians to leave the troubled past behind them; but, instead, cast eyes on the future with hope and prayers. Her statement was further reinvigorated by her State of Nation Address on the 18th of May, 2012 in which she outlined her vision for the country, thereby renewing the blurred hope among many Malawians.
Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. ‘I have a dream’ speech, during the State of the Nation address of the just ended budget sitting of parliament, President Joyce Banda dwelt much on attempting to shake off the devil that has been on the country’s back for the previous three years by among others; promising the country to respect rule of law, equality, political tolerance, respect for human rights, including rights of sexual minorities, media freedom and economic growth.
Rule of law
President Joyce Banda regime took off from a good note as evidenced by the peaceful transition of power despite facing some challenges as some individuals who allegedly wanted to use un constitutional means of change by not recognizing the Vice President to take over as the next President. Throughout the 100 days President Joyce Banda has been at the helm, the rule of law has to a greater extentprevailed in Malawi.
Worth noting is Malawi’s stand in the respect of international laws and obligations when President Mrs. Joyce Banda led government took a bold stand in giving up hosting of the 19th Summit of the AfricanUnion to respect the Rome Statute which establishes the International Criminal Court which Malawi is party to.
However much as President Joyce Banda has started on a good note we at CHRR, CEDEP and PACE-NET would like to humbly flag out a number of concerns for her government attention which include the following:-
Declaration of Assets
Since assuming office, President Mrs. Joyce Banda and her cabinet have not declared their assets as per requirement in the laws of Malawi. The importance of respecting this piece of legislation provides for basis to hold all those that are entrusted with the public purse accountable and transparent.
As demanded by the Civil Society in the 20 points petition presented to late President Bingu Wa Mutharika, we are therefore calling on President Mrs. Joyce Banda and her cabinet to declare her assets as required by our Constitution in order to bring Constitutional order and to avoid unnecessary speculations.
President Mrs. Joyce Banda’s led government has shown little in safeguarding and respecting the Constitution of Malawi as she swore on her inauguration. As we have said before, Section 65 is very clear as it calls upon the Speaker of Parliament to declare vacant all seats of Members of Parliament who have dumped the parties that sponsored them to Parliament and joined other that is represented in Parliament.
We therefore would like to remind the President that democracy does not come cheap and we can not afford to hide behind our poverty in order to apply our laws selectively. We need to abide by our Constitutional provisions as Malawi is a Constitutional democracy.
Separation of Power
Apart from the interference of the Executive in the issue of Section 65, President Joyce Banda’s 100 days in office has strived to put a clear distinction amongst the three arms of government.
Parliament and the judiciary have demonstrated total independence of the Executive arm of government as evidenced by the just ended budget sitting of Parliament.
However we at CHRR, CEDEP and PACE –NET find it contracting in the appointment of Hon. Ralph Kasambara as both the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. In our considered view that there is conflict of interest in the roles that he is playing both as a Legal Adviser to government and his political appointment as Minister of Justice.
Zero Tolerance Drive Against Corruption
Scanning through the 100 day journey of President Joyce Banda’s Presidency, we take it with mixed reaction her commitment to curb corruption.
We take note and commend the arrests of a number of top government officials and politicians on alleged corrupt cases. Notably The 100 days has seen the arrest of Anti Corruption Bureau Director General Mr. Alex Napota, Lilongwe City Assembly Chief Executive Officer Mr. Kelvin Mmangasi and Democratic Progressive Party Regional Governor for the North Rev. Christopher Mzomera Ngwira MP.
The Joyce Banda administration has also gone a mile in resuscitating cases that were swept under the carpet during the previous regime. A number of cases of alleged corruption deals have been revived and we would like to see these cases come to their lawful conclusion without politicizing the matters. These cases must include the Malawi Housing saga which was part of the Civil Society Organizations demand in the 20 point petition to late President Bingu Wa Mutharika DPP government.
However, much as we applaud these strides in curbing corruption we are still of the view that President Joyce Banda government is slowly but surely towing the line of the previous regimes by way of targeting only those that are deemed to be in opposition in this ant corruption drive. We are afraid that the anti-corruption drive is certainly once again being used to intimidate, gag and settle political vendetta.
Just like the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) before, the PP is also unfortunately employing the same tactics of using the anti corruption drive as means of victimizing those perceived to be on the opposite political divide.
We note the issue of Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) as a missed opportunity for President Joyce Banda government to stamp its authority and set a benchmark on zero tolerance on public financemismanagements, corruption and abuse of public office. Much as we appreciate that government instituted a Commission of Inquiry into the saga, we are still of the view that the inquiry itself was not well managed. We strongly subscribe to the fact that the findings were greatly compromised because members of the Commission had conflict of interests being Ministers and investigating their fellow cabinet minister.
To say the least, the findings have unfortunately made a very bad precedent so much so that it will be difficult for President Joyce Banda to authoritatively speak against public office abuse and promotetransparency and accountability in future.
Appointments and Nepotism
We take note and appreciate that unlike in the previous regime where influential and top most jobs and positions in government and Parastatals organizations were given to people from one tribe, PresidentJoyce Banda has moved in swiftly to try and rectify this.
We applaud the composition of her first cabinet where she did not only have it inclusive of members from other political parties, but she has also tried to have it regionally and proportionally balanced. This in one way or the other has help to diffuse the tension and has instead encouraged national healing and reconciliation.
We also applaud the appointments that government has also made so far where merit has reigned supreme over nepotism. On this we take note of the appointments made of Reserve Bank Governor, Inspector General of Malawi Police Service, shifting of Principal, Secretaries based on merit to mention but a few.
However we would like to echo the many voices of concern that much as we applaud President Joyce Banda’s regime in promoting meticulous appointments over nepotism we would love to see appointments in all Parastatals following the due processes of recruitment as stipulated in the Public Management Act.
Much as the some appointments are based on merit, we strongly urge government to respect the laws of this country by way of advertising all vacant posts in the public service and parastatals and let all with requisite qualification and experience battle for the jobs.
We would like to bring afore for example the appointment of Dr Jerry Jana as the Chief Executive Officer for Agricultural Division Marketing Cooperation (ADMARC), much as we appreciate that Dr Jana is well qualified, the fact that he holds an influential position in the ruling PP compromises issues of transparency and accountability. This has to be avoided if PP regime is to be differentiated from DPP era.
Public Media: MBCTV
Much as the President Mrs. Joyce Banda promised to open up the airwaves of the Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation very little has changed at the state broadcaster. Every news program continues to bedominated by items on President Mrs. Joyce Banda daily and those close to the circles of power. We are afraid the space that the President promised is apparently slowly closing up.
We urge government totally liberate MBC from any political interference and let the institution run in a professional manner so that every Malawian regardless of their political affiliation should enjoy the services of MBC.
Conduct of Parliament
The conduct of the Malawi Parliament has generally been encouraging during the 100 days of the Joyce Banda rule. This can be attested in the way Parliament has conducted itself through the just ended budget session.
The debate of issues and the budget votes is an open indicator and we would like to applaud the house including the main opposition DPP and MCP parties for conducting themselves in an honorable fashion.
Conduct of Civil Service – Is it Politicized as before?
While the previous regimes heavily politicized the operations of the civil service President Joyce Banda 100 days in office has seen a shift towards the right direction at least for now.
We applaud her declaration that civil service women stop dancing for her during working hours a thing that all the previous regimes enjoyed.
However as we indicated earlier there are still some pockets of concern on how some appointments and firing within the civil service as there are more viewed to be politically motivated.
We are afraid that if government continues to fire top Civil Servants and Patastatals top bosses willy-nilly the burden will always be pushed on the tax payers who cough lots of money in footing compensations of the fired staff.
We request government to follow procedures in firing and hiring of Civil Servants.
Democratic Space: CSO functioning – (NGO Board, NICE New Board etc)
While the previous regime was heavy handed on the operations of the civil society so much so that they even proposed some funny laws just to fight against CSOs, President Joyce Banda regime has started on a positive note, by way of opening up more space for the operation of the civil society.
We applaud the PP lead government for heeding public concerns and subsequently dissolving the compromised National Initiative Civic Education (NICE). We are therefore calling on the President toconstitute a new NICE Board as a matter of urgency taking into consideration the important role NICE plays in elections matters and general civic education in Malawi.
Without being pessimistic however we at CHRR, CEDEP and PACE-NET are concerned that putting NICE under the Office of President and Cabinet shall compromise its operations.
We would also like to call upon the President to speedily appoint the NGO Board for the good functioning of NGOs in the country. It is only through a health, open, honest and transparent relationshipbetween government and civil society that Malawi can forge ahead in consolidating democracy, human rights and sustainable development.
Protection of Human Rights, Rule of law and Access to justice
For the past 100 days, President Joyce Banda’s administration has made bold attempts to inculcate a culture of human rights promotion and protection in the country. No human rights defender, opposition member as well as ordinary Malawians who lived in fear for merely expressing a different views from those by the state authorities has been arrested on political grounds. No media house has been threatened with closure or advert ban for rubbing the powers-that-be the wrong way. Instead, her government has built a cordial relationship with the media fraternity by promising to pass the long-awaited ‘Access to Information Bill’ which will ease citizens’ access to information held by authorities besides scrapping off the VAT on newspapers.
In her State of Nation Address, President Joyce Banda went a step further towards promoting and protecting human rights by asking Parliament to review the following laws that impede on the full enjoymentof basic fundamental human rights:
Section 46 of the Penal Code (Cap 7:01);
The provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts contained in sections 137A and 153—156 of the Penal Code;
The Civil Procedure (Suits by or Against the Government and Public Officers) (Amendment Act, 2011);
The local Courts Act, 2011; and
Section 35 of the Police Act, 2010
Some of these laws have already been repealed and it is our expectation that a review to all the bad laws for enjoyment of rights by all Malawians including sexual minorities
It is pleasing to observe that for the past 100 days, Police conduct has somehow been exemplary and in tune with democratic expectations. The new Inspector General, has been on doing a commendable job in rebuilding the image and relationship between the police and general public and assuring the general public that the Malawi Police Service will work towards protecting human rights, quite a departure from the Police under the previous regimes which was used as a terror machinery to against Malawians . The new IG had even the courtesy to hold a public lecture at Chancellor College where he assured theUniversity dons of their academic freedom. That’s not all. President Joyce Banda’s political will towards promotion and protection of human rights culture in the country is seen, in equal measure, in the recent denunciation of the police’s ‘shoot to kill’ decree by the late President Bingu wa Mutharika.
However as we appreciate the efforts that the Malawi Police is doing we take note and seriously concerned on the state of our country’s safety and security. Recently we have noted an increase in spate of violent crimes including armed robbery, murder, and defilement.
We therefore call upon her government to tighten up security. Further Malawians do not want to hear of blame games by accusing the opposition for being behind the increase in crime; what Malawians need to security for them.
We also appeal to her government to constitute a team of experts as she has done in other national areas of concern to look at security challenges. This should also include how the Malawi police service can be motivated in terms of modern equipment and incentives to help them deal with the current security challenges.
Gender and Women Empowerment
Gender equality and women empowerment in various key decision-making positions has been a vague statement for a long time, not for fun, though. This is the surest way of advancing the society as well asensuring equal enjoyments of human rights by both males and females. Thus, any step towards gender parity as well as lifting women from subjugation is worth a deafening round of applause. For sure,President Joyce Banda administration has expressed keen and, in some way, led the way on Gender and women empowerment.
In her State of Nation address, she indicated Government’s intention to scale up women economic empowerment activities by facilitating transition of women business groups into cooperativea to make them commercially viable; and intensifying efforts to link the groups to industries, viable markets and financing services.
But, perhaps, what could sum up Banda’s administration will to stop gragging women’s dignity in the political mire is her reiterated statement to ban women civil servants from dancing for the President during the government functions as well as political rallies. Very few Malawians expected such a statement from the Head of State, given the alarming rate of abuse with which women have been associated and subjected to by both previous regimes of UDF and DDP.
Safe Motherhood Drive
It is an open secret that for all the efforts Government and Non-Governmental Organizations are rendering towards the cause, there are still some challenges threatening to dampen the country’s prospects of reaching the Millenium Development Goals 4 and 5 that seek to reduce deaths of live births as well as pregnant mothers to a third and three quarters, respectively by 2015.
Driven by her clarion call that no woman should lose life while giving birth, President Joyce Banda has launched a Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood whose committee comprises 60 percent women, to champion the Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood movement in this country. This would ensure that there is health life for the child as well as the mother.
All these efforts are worthwhile commending but we at CEDEP, CHRR and PACE-NET would like see President Mrs. Joyce Banda government commit more resources to train more nurse and retain them in the health system, capacity primary health care system in Malawi and tackle the issue of unsafe abortion in Malawi.
Intensification of Agriculture as a saviour to economy.
Agriculture is still the back-bone of the country’s economy and priotising the sector has been President Joyce Banda administration’s catch-word to get the economy back on track and going. In the 2012/2013 National Budget, President Joyce Banda pledged to continue spearheading the pro-poor Farm Input Subsidy Program (Fisp) while expanding the number of beneficiaries to 1.5 million from last year’s 1.4 at the meagre K500 despite the recent 49 percent kwacha devaluation.
This is commendable and likely to boost the country’s progress in food sufficiency while, in one way or the other, enabling the poor, subsistent farmer withstand the impact of the kwacha devaluation. It is equally worth mentioning one again that President Banda’s administration has managed to normalise the relationship between tobbaco buyers and the farmers as evidenced by satisfactory accounts by farmers on price of the country’s green gold this season.
However we at CHRR, CEDEPP and PACE-NET would like to call upon the PP led government to desist from using the Farm Input Subsidy (Fisp) program for political gains as has been the case with theprevious governments. There is need for government to improve the system through which this program has been to avoid irregularities that has marred this project so far.
Economy and Donor Relations
That the Malawi’s economy was in tatters in the twilight of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration needs no special emphasis. Much of the trouble, however, originated from the country’s sour relations with the doors over political, economic, governance and human rights concerns. Incensed and frustrated , donors abandoned Malawi, and the country’s tight spot only culminated into the zero deficit budget, an experimentary, punitive and bogus financial plan that was not only a great pain among Malawians, but also left the country with a staggering K70.5 billion deficit. So, President Joyce Banda’ssuccessful attempt to win back donor confidence is so far so very commendable.
Not only that, Malawi has under Banda’s leadership managed to re-engage in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over the resumption of the Extended Credit Facility. In the same breath, the country has worked with the World Bank to develop a Comprehensive Programme for Competitiveness, Growth and Poverty Reduction that will among others benefit the poor in the villages, with the proposal for over US$50 million. The US$350 million for energy grant that was put on hold by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) over the country’s mismanagement of economy and governance ills has been released, quite to the relief of Malawians. The country’s normalized relations with our neighbors Mozambique, followed by an energy deal between the two countries. Equally encouraging has been the new leadership’s efforts to convince the World Bank which has pledged to support Malawi through pro-poor progammes such as Masaf and public works programs.
The Presidential Initiative on Poverty Reduction through cultivation of strategic cash crops is another good start that needs concerted and careful harnessing if the country is to really get out of the poverty trap.
All in all, President Joyce Banda’s 100 days could aptly be termed a dream start. But in Malawian governance set-up, recent history has taught us a bitter lesson that it’s one thing to lay good foundations and quite another to build on those foundations. Other leaders started likewise, only for them to slip into the comforts of dictatorship of no return. Our prayer is that President Joyce Banda will remain true to these foundations, not as an immediate political expediency, but as recognition that those are the only virtues that true, long lasting democracy and prosperity thrive on.
Our Appeal and The Way Forward
We are concerned that in the light of the national experience during the first 100 days of the President Joyce Banda administration, whereby the country has scored some achievements, particularly in the areas of economy, good governance, rule of law, we may, as a nation, wish to stand firm and steadfast in safeguarding our hard won democracy or risk drifting back towards the past we thought we had left behind.It has been said that it takes years and decades to build a democratic society but a blink of an eye to see it all lost to a dictatorship.
At the no uncertain cost of being labeled pessimistic, alarmist as well as presumptuous, we would wish to propose, for consideration as part of the way forward for the remaining days before the next general elections in 2014.
Genuine National Unity and Reconciliation
We call upon President Joyce Banda government to put in place institutionalized national unity and reconciliation process which will help bring continued national unity.
We advise her administration to refrain from sentiments which will bring and create more tension in the country.
Democratic Governance and Constitutionalism
We call upon the Banda government to continue with legal reform and do away with all bad laws and legislation that are not in tandem with principles of democracy and human rights.
Once again we want to draw her attention to Constitutional order especially Section 65 of the Constitution.
In the same vein we want her government to come out clearly on the issue of Local Government elections. we call on her to ensure Tripartite Bill is passed in November 2012 sitting of parliament to enable us hold Tripartite Elections in 20114. It is important to note that this was agreed at government and CSOs dialogue process for action. We strongly believe that if Malawi democracy is to come of age the issue of Local Government election can no longer be relegated to the peripheral.
Economic Management and Development
President Joyce Banda administration should come up with prudent financial management plans to manage the economy now that the Malawi Kwacha has been devalued as the rural poor need to be cushioned from the effects.
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 and mismanagement of public resources.
In the same vein with applaud her position to sell the Presidential Jet as one way of cost cutting to save the ailing economy and government spending based on tax payers. We take note that this was one of a key demand by Civil Society Organizations in their 20 Points petition to the late Bingu Wa Mutharika.
Attending of Presidential Functions
We have seriously taken note and it does not make any sense to see the whole cabinet, Principal Secretaries and other government officials follow the President where ever she goes in her official duties. This is a wasteful of tax payers money and with the new PP regime this is not time to appease the President, it is time to make a difference and bring real changes, it’s time for all of us to work towards rebuilding our nation.
It is also very worrying and costly for our Traditional leaders who also follow the State President wherever she goes on her official tours and Party functions.
We take this opportunity to encourage the President to put into practice the promise she made to cut on her international travel as most of these can be delegated to Ministers and other government officials.
We also call upon her to minimize the internal travels as well if the talk on minimizing public expenditure is to be taken serious.
Foreign Relations and National Sovereignty
We also want to take this opportunity to encourage the President Joyce Banda regime to continue strengthening and nurturing the foreign relations that were bruised during the Bingu wa Mutharika regime. There is however need for Malawi to strike a balance between foreign relations and exercising national sovereignty.
Many at times most African countries including Malawi have tended to confuse in their exercise of national sovereignty and foreign relations so much so that foreign relations with most development partners have fallen victim.
We request the President Joyce Banda administration to exercise with caution our sovereignty in relation to foreign relations.
Human Right Protection and Promotion
We urge her government to continue with the drive in safeguarding, promotion and protection of human rights. We want to remind her government to live up to her promise to open up the space to debate on issue of minority rights in Malawi.
Civil Society 20 July 2011 20 point petition
We would like to call upon the President Joyce Banda lead government to take time and address issues in raised in the CSOs 20 point petition on 20 July 2011. We appreciate that some of the concerns were dealt or have been dealt with but some are still relevant and outstanding and need her government immediate attention and intervention.
As Malawi is still in transition and we hope President Joyce Banda administration will continue cultivating the spirit of ensuring that her government 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.
Lastly but not least, it is our sincere hope that President Joyce Banda will not take our 100 days analysis not as negative towards her administration or as one way of undermining her administration.
We are saying this because this has been the trend in Malawi as the previous DPP administration of late Bingu Wa Mutharika did not appreciate and accept humble advice and constructive criticism. Instead hisDPP administration politicized anything and everything we said without looking at the positive side of our concerns. What happened then was heavy crackdown on Civil Society organisations and its leaders.We hope President Joyce Banda administration will not repeat the same and start attacking and persecuting civil society organisations and its leaders for just reminding her administration on how we should be governed.
As for CHRR, CEDEP and PACE-NET we will continue offering constructive advice and continue to speak on behalf of the voiceless as we have done before without fear or favour for the good of our nation.
Finally, Malawians prayed and fought for change, God brought us the change and change has come, it’s for us now to take this opportunity to bring fundamental changes.
But the choice is ours as a nation and President Joyce Banda is just leading the way!
Gift Trapence Steve Duwa
Executive Director Executive Director
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