Hon Speaker, Sir, on behalf of the delegation I wish to express our appreciation for allowing us to come and see you today despite your busy schedule. We are also gratified to be here in this magnificent building where honourable people deliberate national issues. We thank you for the hospitality surrounding our meeting today.
The objective of this appointment with you, Hon. Speaker, is to learn from you what have been the key impediments to the implementation of S65 during your administration. Secondly, PAC wishes to advocate for the passing into law of the electoral amendments that are being harmonised by the Malawi Electoral Commission to enable the holding of Tripartite Elections. Of course there are other issues we wish to raise with you so that you are aware what delegates said during the Second All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference held on 30-31 October, 2012. But before we detail these issues allow us to briefly outline PAC’s strategic goals.
PAC as a civil society organization needs no introduction to you, Sir , since it has evolved together with the political processes in the new multiparty dispensation. The organization has maintained its original objectives which are among other things:
- To encourage religious bodies to fulfill their prophetic and religious roles, and respond to the socio-economic and political affairs of the Republic of Malawi
- To promote peace and tranquility in the Republic of Malawi;
- To promote the rule of law and human rights in the Republic of Malawi
- To enter into and maintain a dialogue with any person, political body or any other institution in the Republic of Malawi regarding any issues of concern to the nation;
It is the latter that brings us here today to share issues of concern that emerged from the All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conferences held in March and October 2012. These conferences drew delegates from different sectors and political parties. Before I go into some observations and resolutions, allow me to take you through the advocacy processes we have gone through since March, 2012.
You may be aware of the fact that Malawi faced serious challenges both economically and politically since 2010. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) organized mass demonstrations that led to the death of 20 people which resulted to national dialogue between CSOs and Government. As PAC we noted that things were not improving till early 2012. We resolved to organize an All-Inclusive Conference at Limbe Cathedral to define a common strategy and agenda on the political and economic direction of the country. Many observations were made from the conference. The most important of all were resolution to concretize the way forward. The following were the resolutions made by PAC Board :
- To establish a Special Committee on Political , Economic and Constitutional Reforms ( members would include some delegates who attended the conference)
- To establish a Committee on Constructive Engagement with the Head of State ( members would include some delegates who attended the conference)
- To organize a follow-up Conference to continue enhancing broad- based dialogue among stakeholders
- To refine a PAC multi-year strategy document to focus on activities leading to 2014
The meeting with Her Excellency Joyce Banda on 14 November, 2012 therefore marked the implementation of Resolution No. 2 above, that is , to constructively engage with the Head of State. Resolution No. 3 was implemented through the holding of Second All-Inclusive Conference in October 2012. Within Resolution 3 , PAC resolved to engage with key decision-makers . This meeting therefore constitutes one of the interface meetings PAC is holding. So far this is the path we have taken in our advocacy journey to learn more on various issues . Therefore, in summary, we have had two major conferences, one interface meeting with the Head of State , now this meeting , to identify issues for our advocacy interventions.
It is in light of this, Honourable Speaker , that we come here today to share with you some of the concerns Malawians talked about regarding the economic and political landscape last year. We are aware that there are areas that may have improved politically. However , Malawians still have concerns in the areas of political governance, constitutionalism and economic path under the current administration. We therefore come here today to outline selected issues of concern which were also shared with Her Excellency Joyce Banda. We do this because you may not have shared notes on some of these aspects. But as Speaker of the National Assembly its important to read some of the issues to you as we did with the Head of State:
On political governance, our last conference observed that there is lack of leadership at various levels to transform this country, and therefore , Malawi continues to face underdevelopment since its independence. We are not only talking about political leadership but leadership at different levels of administration to transform our country. Similarly, we are not talking about any individual but a concept on leadership. To this end, it was recommended that Malawi must produce transformational leadership as a prelude to achieving development in all sectors. There is need to institutionalize leadership training in and through academic institutions, civil society organizations, faith based institutions etc for Malawi to be transformed. This seemed to have been a key issue during our conference. We are aware that it is not your personal responsibility alone but it involves many players . We are of the view that generally Malawi continue to lack strategic leadership. People may argue with us on this point but the fact remains that we are not sure whether our country will see the type of development our friends in other countries are experiencing. During our conferences it was clear that Malawi lacks serious leadership in order to stir development.
Constitutionalism: Section 65
As regards constitutionalism, S65 was highly prioritized by the delegates. In this regard, delegates noted that there has been a serious lack of political will to invoke section 65 in the eighteen years of the multi-party dispensation of political governance. This is unwelcome development. It is generally felt that within the current administration failure to implement S65 has been a deliberate disregard of constitutionalism despite technical excuses that have been given at parliament.
Section 64 of the Constitution
Related to S65 is the issue of S64 . It was observed that the repealing of Section 64 of the Constitution in 1995 has caused a constitutional gap in the accountability mechanisms to check the effectiveness of the Members of Parliament. Delegates felt that the unilateral repeal of S64 was an unfortunate disregard of the will of the people of Malawi and a fundamental departure from principles of constitutionalism. This has also become an issue to be reconsidered to enhance transparency and accountability in Malawi. We feel that this provision be re-introduced in the republican Constitution. Honorable Speaker, Sir, we are aware of the need to have appropriate safeguards, and we are confident that Malawi can develop these safeguards .
Autonomy of Parliament
We also noted that the need to concretize the autonomy of parliament should be treated as a priority for effective performance of the parliament. For instance, the parliament should be in control of its own budget and the Speaker should be summoning the parliament. It is our view that the current scenario subjects the parliament too much to the Executive. We hope that this issue will be treated as a priority.
The issue of tripartite elections was also deliberated during our conference. We , as an organization, support the need to hold tripartite elections in 2014. We are impressed with the parliament for passing the bill into law to enable Malawi hold these elections. We believe these elections will give Malawians power to run their own affairs and will enhance participation of the community in developmental work.
On economic front, it is clear that there is hardship. We know that devaluation is a must in our situation. However, we may need to put adequate measures to lessen the hardship. But on a separate note, we wish to emphasise the fact that devaluation has had a big impact on people’s lives. The government should therefore practice austerity measures to redirect savings towards mitigating the impact of devaluation.
There were many more observations but we selected a few of them. You will see from our communiqué how stakeholders view some issues in your administration.
Hon. Speaker Sir, we now wish to focus on the objective of this meeting.
You will recall that when the PP government was sworn in , many MPs shifted to government side dumping their own political parties. We are very much aware of the freedom of association. However, we have S65 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and yet you could not implement it at an appropriate time. As PAC , our view following the two conferences held last year is that Malawians expected you to take an action. We would like to know why this failed.
PAC would like to thank Members of Parliament for passing Tripartite elections Bill during the last sitting of parliament. They did a wonderful job for the benefit of Malawians. We believe that honourable people should always be honourable enough to do things in the national interests. In this regard , we would also like to advocate for the prioritization of passing into law bills which aim at harmonizing the constitution; Presidential,Parliamentary Elections Act (PPEA) and Local Government Elections Act (LGEA). This activity is being pursued by the Taskforce on the Harmonisation of electoral laws in which PAC is involved. We believe all the amendments that have been selected should be passed into law if the tripartite elections are to take place. The amendments are the main pillars for holding the elections. We take cognizance that the drafting of these bills has not been finalized but we are sure that they will be brought before parliament in February, 2013.
This aspect is not for you as an individual but we would like to raise it with you because you are part of government and one of the key decision-makers. You will recall that in 2007 the Law Commission produced a report on the review of the Constitution. Up to now, the recommendations have not been effected. We find it unfortunate that as a country we can manage to ignore such a report after spending millions of Kwachas on consulting Malawians. We feel this is betrayal to constitutional principles. It is our view that government should reconsider the recommendations to reflect the current constitutional challenges. We will continue to advocate for the implementation of the constitutional reforms with other key stakeholders because the said report is very important.
Once again , congratulations for passing the law on tripartite elections. We hope that you will continue enacting other amendments relating to tripartite elections.
In conclusion, we seek your observations on the above issues we have raised.
We wish you God’s blessings!
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