Why CONGOMA rejected Mutharika’s appointed NGO board

Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika last December appointed a seven-member NGO Board which was, however, only made public some three weeks ago. Mutharika is also Minister responsible for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

The announcement of the board came after several communications and a meeting (since March 2009) between the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Council for Non Governmental Organisation (CONGOMA) over the same.

In a letter to OPC dated 30th March 2009, CONGOMA, in pursuant to Section 7 (a) of the NGO Act 2000 on the appointment of NGO Board members and after duly consulting its members on same during a Special General Meeting held on Saturday, 28th March 2009 at Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, proposed to Mutharika the following names (in descending order of preference by CONGOMA):

Bamusi: DPP operative

 Emily Banda of Participatory Rural Development, Levi Mihowa of Sue Ryder International, Gertrude Chipungu of Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, Naomi Kamanga of World Hope International Malawi, Kent Mphepo of the Story Workshop, Amos Tizora of Circle for Integrated Community Development, Temwani Kumwenda of Orphans, Widows and AIDS Campaign, Express Moyo of Children Investment Fund Foundation (UK) and Fatima Ndaila of Muslim Women’s Organization.

But in its letter dated 1st December 2011 and signed by Bright Msaka, Chief Secretary to OPC, government came up with its own list of names maintaining only one, Emily Banda. The others included Mabvuto Bamusi, Senior Chief Lukwa, Chris Kandulu, Trouble Kalua, Zelia Chakale and Rose Gadama Misomali.

The composition did not please the NGO mother body and in its response to OPC on February 9, 2012, CONGOMA Executive Director, Ronald Mtonga, argued that government had flouted the procedures and also packed the board with ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members and sympathisers.

Mtonga said the six members proposed by government would not “perform their roles objectively since they were either actively involved in the activities of the ruling party, DPP, or close associates of DPP functionaries, or on the payroll of government or partisanly aligned themselves with government.”

He cited Section 6(2) of the NGO Act which reads: “The [NGO] board shall function without political or religious bias or interference by donors, the government, an organ of the State or a political party.”

In the letter CONGOMA made its position clear for rejecting the six members and Nyasa Times reproduces the reasons as outlined by CONGOMA why it took that stand:

Mabvuto Bamusi – “We object to the appointment of Bamusi on the grounds that it is common knowledge that he has aligned himself with government after dumping Human Rights Consultative Committee where he was National Coordinator in order to serve the interest of government. This is clear sign that he is not supportive or patriotic to NGO work. We deem the proposed appointment as prejudicial to the NGOs in Malawi and works indirectly with section 6(2) of the Act. We note that if appointed, he will be biased towards government.”

Senior Chief Lukwa – “The proposed appointee is on government payroll just like all chiefs in Malawi. We wonder how he is going to discharge his duties without bias to the paymaster. This appointment again contradicts the spirit of section 6(2) of the Ngo Act as we note that he will be biased towards government if appointed.”

Chris Kandulu and Trouble Kalua – “We have established that the above named are close associates of the ruling party’s functionaries. Apart from that, we cannot ascertain their knowledge and experience of NGO work in the country. We are not comfortable with these names either.”

Zelia Chakale – “It is common knowledge that Chakale is in the DPP (ruling party’s) Central Region Committee. She is an active politician and her proposed appointment contradicts the intention of section 6(2) of the NGO Act. We note that she will be biased towards the ruling party and government if appointed.”

Rose Gadama Misomali – “We note that Gadama was on the campaign trail of the DPP (the ruling party) in the past elections. She even stood as a candidate in DPP primaries in Mulanje in the past elections. She has continued to be an active member of the Democratic Progressive Party. Her proposed appointment contradicts section 6(2) of the Act as she will be biased towards the ruling party and government if appointed.”

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