Political analysts have observed that Catholic bishops in their renewed call for a new era through its pastoral letter have not endorsed any presidential candidate ahead of the court-ordered fresh presidential election tentatively set for June 23, but the influential church is calling out issues that need to be addressed.
The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM)—a grouping of Catholic bishops— in its 26th pastoral letter titled A Further Call for a New Era in Malawi: Leadership at the Service of Citizens, have condemned political violence, corruption, tribalism and fraud in the country.
“The letter is not clear on whether they want the incumbent President Peter Mutharika] out or not. It seems they want new leadership which means a new way of politics – which could mean Mutharika enhances his governance to meet the needs of what the letter is calling for.
“It could mean the philosophy of leadership needs a dimension shift from past to new norms of inclusivity, transparency and accountability. The recent alliances are also a shift on all parties in the upcoming elections – it has ushered in already a new leadership in all parties – so could the letter mean that?” Bartholomew Selenje, a Catholic scholar, told Nyasa Times.
Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Blantyre Father Boniface Tamani confirmed that the church does not endorse a candidate and only guide its congregants on qualities of a good leader that the country needs to have.
In their epistle, the bishops noted that the country is at crossroads and the presidential rerun offers an opportunity to choose a leader who can save the country from collapsing and who can foster unity and order.
“We can either choose to save our nation or destroy it. The most urgent task before us is to choose a leader who can rescue it from further deterioration,” reads the letter in part.
The Catholic Church is looking for a leader with eight qualities that include honesty, selflessness, good stewardship, decisiveness, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, and being above tribal/regional/political interests, accountable and God-fearing.
However, governance expert and member of Political Science Association, Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that just like the 1992 pastoral letter – Living Our Faith – that narrated the gross evils of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime, the 2020 edition of Catholic bishops epistle has done likewise in presenting the key challenges associated with the current DPP regime.
“And it doesn’t need one to be a political scientist to grasp the key messages being driven home by the Catholic Bishops,” he said.
“Otherwise, the issues raised in the pastoral letter are not new. These are issues Malawians have struggled with in recent years under the DPP at the helm. So what the Bishops are trying to do -on one hand- is to remind Malawians to use the next election as an opportunity to change the status quo by punishing those largely responsible for such mess through a ballots,” pointed out Munthali.
“On the other hand the Bishops are also using the pastoral letter as a tool in setting the policy agenda for the next government -whether the current DPP or MCP – on priority challenges they need to focus on such as ridding the nation of vices such as impunity, nepotism, corruption, killings of persons with albinism ,” added the analyst.
Ernest Thindwa, a political science lecturer at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said the biggest challenge as a country is acute lack of quality leadership, saying if that is fixed, the country has “a huge potential” to register meaningful progress on the socio-economic front “for the betterment of all Malawians.”
The pastoral letter is signed by The Most Reverend Thomas Msusa (ECM president and archbishop of Blantyre Archdiocese), Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka (vice-president and bishop of Karonga Diocese), the most Reverend Tarsizio Ziyaye (Archbishop of Lilongwe Archdiocese), Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa (bishop Chikwawa Diocese) and Right Reverend Montfort Sitima (bishop of Mangochi Diocese).
Other signatories are Right Reverend George Tambala (bishop of Zomba Diocese), Right Reverend John Ryan (bishop of Mzuzu Diocese) and The Very Reverend John Chithonje (diocesan administrator of Dedza Diocese).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :