The following are some of the depressing headlines that dominated last week’s papers and online publications:
‘Judiciary support staff down tools’, ‘Robbers invade minister’s residence’, ‘Zomba DHO staff on strike’, ‘Teachers still not paid’, ‘Brace for tougher times’, ‘Malawi tobacco future face doom’, ‘ACB officials get threats’, ‘Kwacha falls’, ‘In search of leadership on Kwacha’, ‘Kamuzu Central hospital suspends operations’, ‘Malawi activists silenced with board appointments – Dulani’. Needless to say, these are depressing headlines.
But there were also other sobering headlines:
‘IMF says Malawi economy in lean season’, ‘Former President Joyce Banda, Stoller sign pact to benefit farmers in Africa’, ‘Mera says no panic buying’, ‘Malawi Government denies reports of suspected Ebola case’, ‘Kwacha to stabilise in two weeks’ time – Gooodall’.
But what caught my attention most are the comments on Malawi activists that have been appointed into parastatal boards. Some people have asked that those appointed into parastatal boards should show their credentials to assure Malawians whose interests they represent that they will add value to the running of the boards. That is a valid point but it is not the subject of this discussion.
For starters, there is John Kapito, the vocal Executive Director of the Consumers Association of Malawi, Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace National Secretary Chris Chisoni, Episcopal Conference of Malawi official Fr George Buleya, Monsignor Boniface Tamani, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Masauko, Bishop Vitta Malasa, activists Emmie Chanika and Billy Banda, among others. Congratulations on your appointments deservedly or not.
Seodi White, vocal against the former president Joyce Banda, is already serving as a member of the Civil Service Reform Programme while Voice Mhone was appointed Malawi’s envoy to Germany.
Seodi was already silenced; the last time I heard about her is when she announced her resignation or retirement from Wilsa-Malawi.
But what caught my attention is the headline: ‘Malawi activists silenced with board appointments – Dulani’. There is no doubt that there is some truth in the headline although only up to a certain extent. I reckon the aim of the appointment of some of the vocal CSOs leaders was meant to achieve just this – to silence them.
Kapito, in particular, has been very vocal not only during the previous regime but also during the last few months of his tenure at the Malawi Human Rights Commission during the late President Bingu wa Mutharika’s term. It was strategic.
The aim, I presume, was to have him roped into some lucrative job in government. It did not happen. As fate would have it, Bingu died and his successor Joyce Banda did not give him any job in government. Result: he became more vocal as was Seodi who used to fume and froth over anything Banda did.
Kapito was one of the acidic critics of Bingu for his reluctance to devalue the Kwacha as recommended by the Bretton Woods institutions after government had gone off-track with the Internationa
When the Kwacha was devalued and floated, the same Kapito, who had been critical of Bingu’s management of the economy and who had supported the devaluation of the Kwacha, turned back against Banda. This time round he was hitting at the regime for the aftermaths of the devaluation.
Let it be mentioned that devaluation was a necessary evil, one of the bitter pills Malawians needed to swallow in order to get better. And, if we are where we are today economically after donors returned to Malawi, it was because of this. The decision heralded the end of forex and fuel shortages in the country and the economy improved.
But rather than conclude that the appointment of Kapito and others will silence them all, I wish to give the CAMA boss the benefit of doubt…at least for now. If he is a man of principles, Kapito will continue to be critical of the DPP administration’s bad economic policies in the same way Health Equity Network Executive Director Martha Kwataine was not silenced to speak on health issues while serving as board chair for Macra during the Banda era.
But if Kapito’s aim was to be rewarded, he will indeed be silenced. But, for now, time will be the best judge. In the same vein, I also expect Voice Mhone, Chris Chisoni and Billy Banda – all vocal critics of the previous administration, to also continue to provide the checks and balances they used to provide when they were not holding any position in government. If they don’t, I can guarantee, the Malawi media will come for them and expose them that they were vocal for selfish gains.
If they get silenced, let me also guarantee that there is no shortage of takers. Other people will emerge and take their place. They will not be missed.
- The articles was first published in Malawi News
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