Sunday, December 7, 2014

Not yet the Malawi We Need: Examining the Malawi of Today

A media and advocacy statement from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
6th December 2014

  1. Preamble
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi comprising of CCJP National, CCJP Chikwawa, Arch diocese of Blantyre, Zomba, Mangochi, Dedza, Archdiocese of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Karonga gathered on 2nd, December 2014, at Msamba Pastoral Centre in Lilongwe; reflecting upon the Malawi of today. During this reflection process on the operations of CCJP and the socio-economic and living context of Malawi, CCJP noted that the lives of most Malawians today and specifically 6 months after the tripartite elections is a mixed bag of joys and sorrows. There are elements that are showing some glimmers of hope for an improved society yet at the same time there are also issues worrying many people that CCJP seeks to communicate to various stakeholders so that correct and proactive interventions are taken into practice to ameliorate the suffering and the agonies of the people. In doing this, CCJP recognises the already existing initiatives from government, NGOs, FBOs and development partners. However, CCJP observes that there is more that needs to be done and to be done radically differently and effectively to make Malawi a better place for all. We believe after celebrating 50 years of independence, we Malawians need to do things with a radical change of perception, conviction and direction.
  1. The positives currently observed in our society today

    1. Peaceful Malawians that value co-existence and contact and dialogue
We note that the mood just after the polling in May 2014 tripartite elections was tensed and affected social cohesion in many other ways. The electoral results continued to polarise the country as voting patterns showed, we, as a nation, had reverted to regional voting pattern that was negligible in the preceding 2009 general election. In this context, other sections of the society started calling for secession and other forms of governance, seeking to depart from the unitary state of nationhood for Malawi. This includes the calls for federal system of government.
Regardless of emotional attachment to such calls, during these six months, CCJP has noted, Malawians have held such discussions and debates peacefully and that there have been contact and dialogue initiatives allowing for freedom of expression and participation to flourish. Malawi, we must acknowledge, has continued to be a peaceful nation.
    1. The spirit of resilience and a commitment to survival.
The public service delivery systems and process have been on the down turn for more years now. The quality and timeliness on services in education, health, water, and many others have been hugely compromised and neglected to the detriment of the poor who can’t afford privatised services. Compounded by natural disasters,  the livelihoods of Malawians are being pushed further the worst poverty levels. In most cases therefore, Malawi continues to present  sombre pictures of life struggles every day. CCJP notes with encouragement, however, that most Malawians have shown resilience and commitment to survival, a spirit that is worth commending considering the hard and tough times we have been going through and we seem not yet to get to the end of the tunnel.

    1. An emerging critical and engaging citizenry
It is encouraging to note that Malawian citizens are no longer a “silent generation” just watching their state of livelihoods passing by. They are neither a mere complaining nation. There are emerging voices calling for accountability, transparency and responsiveness in many governance systems and structures. Whilst, the governors may not often times be comfortable with this emerging civic culture; CCJP notes, this is positive and it will ensure that those who govern must always recognise the views and the voices from those governed. Leaders at community, district and national structures can only ignore this emerging critical citizenry at its own peril. 
    1. An emerging leadership seeking to deal with issues than personalities
In our contemporary Malawi, CCJP notes,  there is an emergence of new leadership seeking to grapple with the issues of socio-economic development that perennially impacting on the people of Malawi.  The holding of issue-based presidential, running-mates, parliamentary and local government debates during the tripartite elections campaigning period was the first step. The reference to the commitments, speeches and pronouncements made by the current government leadership on various governance issues by the Opposition political parties and by the CSO leadership, indicates a marked departure from the frequently used personality bashing politics or advocacy to issue-based engagement. It is assumed by CCJP, if sustained, this will help Malawi to collectively define its path to development as divisive politicking will be abandoned for progressive articulation of national policy issues.
  1. Our Worries
Whilst recognising all these afore-mentioned joys and strengths of the people, as noted by CCJP; we however observe the following lows and major concerns overarching the socio-economic and political dynamics of Malawi. We, note, if not dealt with in the short, intermediate and long term perspectives, this country may be beginning another 50 years with minimal prospects of positive transformation
    1. Cash gate and its Impact on the poor.
We, in CCJP look at cash gate from its attendant consequences on the poor, those that have always depended on government for the delivery of services, those who can’t afford privatised services. Donors have withdrawn aid because of cash gate resultantly poor people are suffering.
Those who participated in this looting of public resources must feel responsible for this worsening economic situation and the shrinking capacity of Malawi government in delivering quality and timely public services. Whilst government through its various governance structures is trying to sort out the mess (and for sure it must do so now!); we encourage Malawians to be vigilant on possible contemporary cash gate practices. We also appeal to donor partners to seriously consider the plight of the poor who are only on the receiving end of financial malpractices of their leaders and public servants. Under the spirit of solidarity, the poor Malawians need support and the legitimacy of this support can only be sent through government and other reliable non state actors. Therefore, development partners, we implore, should not abandon Malawi during its dire need. CCJP believes Malawi government needs financial resources from bilateral and multilateral partners to support its agenda for development whilst it is cleaning and strengthening its financial management systems.

    1. Corruption

We in CCJP sadly note that corruption has slowly but surely, though painfully become the DNA of our society at all levels and all manners of society. Corruption has become endemic with a very critical negative impact on public life as there is no confidence from the public in public, private and non state officials and their systems. Many cries are heard from public utility institutions like immigration, road traffic, ESCOM, Water Boards and public hospitals among many other institutions, that no space is enough to list them here. It must be noted, however, that the impact of corruption as evidenced in cash gate scandal are more devastating on the economy and livelihood of the people especially the poor. We ask all Malawians to resist and stop corruption and they must also report corruption. We further ask government to put multifaceted strategies for the anti corruption drive. Having ACB is not enough, we need school curriculum on corruption, we need additional anti corruption drives that must permeate all sectors of our society.

    1. Massive Deforestation

It has been noted that for the past 20 years the culture of planting trees has gone down and this has resulted in climate change. Forests like Dzalanyama, Chikangawa, Ndirande, Chikwawa escarpment and Dedza , among many others, are now bare. Compounding the situation is the over-dependency of most Malawians on natural forests for energy whilst Malawi has no alternative form of energy. Without reinforcements in tree replanting initiatives, we as a nation are bound to face desertification processes that will impact negatively on agriculture production which is the mainstay of our economy. CCJP notes, therefore that there is need for increasing budget allocations to the department forestry, initiating new corporate social responsibility interventions from investors dealing with forestation processes. The campaigns like “Make Malawi greener” need to be revamped. Furthermore, our country needs alternative sources of energy explored and implemented to reduce the dependency on the trees as source of energy.

    1. Exploitation of small holder farmers

CCJP notes that Malawi governments have made commitments to hugely spend on Farm Input Subsidy program so that food security is ensured at both micro and macro levels. However, the absence of markets and properly regulated farm produce prices is leading to small holder farmers’ exploitation by private business people who seek farm produce at lower prices rendering the smallholder farmers profitless and entrenched further into poverty. CCJP acknowledges the liberalised economic policy framework Malawi adopted, however, we are still convinced that the economic policies must not be to the benefit of a few who already have, but rather must cater for the needs of the whole society. The state therefore must protect its citizens from the adverse pressure of the market by introducing mechanisms of ensuring that prices are regulated and that markets are available in most remote areas of Malawi.

    1. Dysfunctional Local Government structures
CCJP appreciates the presence of councillors after a long period  of their absence. The presence of councillors will strengthen the local governance systems, structures and functions in the hope of delivery of development to communities. However, we note that within six months after elections; there is a clear manifestation of conflict of roles and conflict of interest between MPs and councillors in one part and between councillors and assembly technical personnel in another. The failure to clearly define and internalise the roles of MPs, councillors, traditional authorities coupled with the attendant conflict inherent in this lack of clarity in roles is a recipe for dysfunctionality of local governance structures across the country.
CCJP notes, there is need to call for transparency, accountability and provision of information among all stakeholders involved in the running of assemblies and development processes in various assemblies. There is also a greater need to build capacity of councillors to horn their skills for proper and informed debates in the assemblies. Therefore, development partners need to come in and help Malawi to have functional local governance systems and structures so as to fully realise the ideals of decentralization. It is not enough to have local governance structures and councillors in place; Malawi needs functional and responsive systems and structures.

    1. Public Appointments

CCJP further notes that government continue to flaunt procedures in appointing people to various positions of public interest. Those appointed sometimes are also not consulted leading us to question the seriousness of the appointing authority as well as its legitimate expectations from the appointed people. Whilst, many commentators have argued that government can be inclusive and generate an integrated leadership representational framework; we in CCJP think, appointments of advocates on development and human rights and faith leaders has, in Malawi tended to cripple the conscious of the civil society and faith based movement in Malawi- it has also, sometimes paralysed and confused the “watchdog” role of the faith based institutions as well as the NGO movement.
Similarly, much as the state President His Excellency Prof. Peter Mutharika, in his inaugural speech he committed to promote gender equality, it is sad that only few women have been appointed in leadership positions. (For example out of 20 cabinet ministers 3 only are women). We think there must be a deliberate affirmative action for women leadership in various governance systems and structures than it is the case now.
We therefore implore the state leadership to proactively consider social inclusion, women participation, and maintenance of the doctrine of the separation of powers and roles in sustaining the consolidation of democracy in our country.

Furthermore, issues of redeployment are also worrisome to us as in some cases, two people are paid on the same post when the other one is just doing nothing. In some instances, some are redeployed to departments which do not match their skills or career path. This is resulting in wasting tax payer’s money and misallocation of human resource. CCJP has been always worried with the wastage of tax payers money and misallocation of human resource by almost all government administrations every time government administrations are changing.

    1. Lack of National Policy agenda

CCJP seeks to remind the nation and the leadership of various governance structures that on the road to 2014 tripartite elections, the nation was agreeing of having a parliamentary act to establish an independent National Development Commission. It seems, six months down the ladder, this zeal is not observable in the current national discourse. CCJP is worried that continued politicization and personalization of development in Malawi have denied many communities the enjoyment and fulfilment of their right to development. To avoid further marginalization of some communities from the development processes, CCJP  is making a special appeal to the executive, parliamentarians, CSOs, FBOs and the general citizenry to re-engage into the dialogue needed for the development of the relevant national policy agenda and the much anticipated Independent National Development Commission.
The cries of most Malawians both in urban and rural communities, CCJP notes; is the issue of insecurity.  Insecurity has resulted into loss of life and property. We are saddened to note also an ambiguous role of security personnel in curbing insecurity as some crime is done right under their nose and is also reported by the media to having been perpetrated by police officers. We are actually surprised that, in our observations- it has become a tradition that once administration of government changes, the transition period is marred by heightened criminal cases. We therefore ask government and its cooperating partners that our Police should be capacitated in terms of funding so that they acquire necessary resources e.g vehicles, technology and equipment. At the same time proper deployment in the police service should be done. It seems there are a lot of traffic officers than Security police.
 We further implore for the role of community in combating crime since this, in our modern world is collective responsibility.

    1. Strikes
CCJP notes, the numerous labour related strikes currently under way and others in the offing. Whilst CCJP acknowledges the right of employees to a just and fair wage, we would like to encourage engagement and dialogue between employers and employees to resolving their differences. Similarly, we believe proper appreciation of the employers economic strength in the meeting the ever growing employees’ demands is also needed.
Specifically, with our own government riddled with acute shortage of financial resources- striking staff should realise that government has a weaker capacity at the moment. Government must balance the demands and interests of various sectors of the population.
We, in CCJP however, seek to ask government and its other departments or branches like state houses, cabinet, parliament and judiciary etc. to be exemplary in their appetite for spending and living in luxurious life. It is unfair and unjust to deny increments of salaries elsewhere and in another approve rapid changes to salaries. Often times, this inherent contradiction within government structures is a recipe for being disgruntled and lukewarm approach to work that seriously affects effectiveness and efficiency in public service delivery. CCJP believes, we- the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the general citizenry must collectively face the stringent measures needed to turn around our economy.

    1. Poor Service Delivery

We sadly note that there are inefficiencies and sometimes seemingly gross negligence in public service delivery e.g. water, electricity and many other sectors to the point which it is raising the anger of consumers. Malawi citizens deserve better services and better services are a possibility in Malawi. However, we see a non committed leadership, insincere strategic planning and sometimes abuse of needed resources for better service deliveries.  CCJP believes results-based management could be helpful in these service providers and that service charters with communities would help improve the responsiveness of service providers. CCJP takes this to be a sad development when Malawian citizens have to pay for a service that is not available, a service that is unreliable and further more a service that is creating misery among people. In actual fact asking the poor to pay for the lavish living wages of those failing to fulfil better service delivery is a mockery to the integrity of the citizens. We in CCJP therefore ask government to strengthen its boards and ensure that they do not just exist in name but are also operational guiding the numerous service providers that are becoming a menace in our society.

    1. Domestic Violence

CCJP is seriously worried that despite some increased efforts in raising awareness and in advocating for respect for human rights and the dignity of all; there is an increasing reporting of rape, incest, child marriage, child abuse and women battering. To continue to have our little girls and women abused physically, emotionally and economically is the undesired state of human relations that CCJP strives to curb. Therefore, there is need to put comprehensive laws and compliance mechanisms to deter these cases of domestic violence. Punitive measures must also consider the deterrent and corrective measure supposed to be inherent in all intentions of punishment. In addition, program interventions that must include boys and men in deconstructing their eschewed masculinity concepts are needed now than ever before to ensure effective collaboration between men and women in making societies better place for all.

    1. Irresponsible and over exited Leadership
CCJP has observed with sadness and a heavy heart, the emergence of loud mouthed leaders among CSOs, FBOs, traditional and political, who are just excited with their leadership positions but are confusing the general citizenry with half truths and comments on national issues without substantial and verifiable evidence. Resultantly, Malawians are highlighting news about Malawi that do not support the cause of government or the majority poor Malawian people.

CCJP seeks to remind all Malawians regardless of their political divide that we all were asking for transformative leadership and not transactional leadership in all leadership structures and positions be they in FBOs, CSOs, parliament, judiciary and the executive. If we only abandon our responsibility to build a better Malawi and live this to few politicians in the executive, we will be passively participating in the impoverishment of Malawi. We can be excited in commenting on everything but we need to have our facts correct before participating in any public discourse. We need to be patriotic to our mother Malawi.

    1. Limited patriotism

It is sad to note that the spirit of patriotism is shrinking in this country. We live like we have borrowed this country from elsewhere. With the shrinking spirit of patriotism is the growing spirit of irresponsibility as most Malawian people are no longer responsible. This is visible in physical vandalism (i.e removing road signs, urinating anywhere) and cash gate. It does appear to us that most people would love to enjoy their freedoms and rights without attendant responsibilities. Yet for this nation to develop and to improve we need committed people, we need patriots. We, in CCJP therefore call all people to radically change their senses of perception and patriotism; we must learn to love our mother land if we must transform Malawi. Without strong spirit of patriotism, we are killing the future of our children and future generations.

    1. Role of Donors

The role of donors in developing countries like Malawi cannot be over emphasised but sometimes their role is ambiguous as they change their agenda from time to time.  The top down approach is not helping either. Objectivity of some of the policies is questionable as sometimes some policies do not reflect the local contextual needs. Additionally, recruitment of expatriates in position which Malawians ably can handle is denying many local citizens access to employment and use of different rates between locals and international staff in program delivery is a mockery to issues of equity and social justice. We therefore ask for proper regulation and dialogue between Malawi government and the cooperating donors so that there should not be ambiguity in their good works.

    1. Human Trafficking and Illegal Immigrants

CCJP is further worried that trafficking of little girls is still continuing despite increased levels of awareness of such vice in our communities. Furthermore, the participation of Malawians in aiding illegal immigrants is a very sad development to our country especially in the context of Ebola and many other crimes occurring in Africa. Despite their illegality, the increased frequencies in the occurrences of these vices boarder around lack of patriotism, lack of respect for human dignity of others and sheer obsession with making monitory gains. CCJP wonders where our umunthu concept is in the face of personal riches.

    1. Lack of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

There is absence of legal framework for investor’s corporate social responsibility in Malawi. As such investors are involved in the works that would have been under corporate responsibility but dealt with like charity work. A lot of companies make immoral profits but give back irrelevant CSR like sponsoring golf or buying a ticket for one person to go abroad to watch soccer. We are encouraging government to come out quickly with a legal and policy framework that is enabling for companies and communities to share resources for the development of all and mandate companies to commit to ploughing back to communities resources they extract from the same. Through properly regulated CSR, Malawi government can have its development efforts complimented by investors and in its absence, we are losing a lot.

  1. Conclusion

We in CCJP bring these issues forward for government, parliament, CSOs, development partners, Malawi citizens in general to take stock of their roles, their commitments, their omissions and their vision as they ponder on these issues. One philosopher long time ago said “life unexamined is not worth living” It is this examination we are calling for so that Malawi becomes a better place to live in where the principles of transparency, accountability, responsiveness, the common good, solidarity with the poor and the marginalised are properly lived. We do hope that these issues will provoke dialogue and national interrogation worth bringing about the desired change to the status quo we live in today.

Another and a better Malawi is possible if we become responsible citizens that keep in check our leaders  as often times bad leadership is anchored by bad citizenry. God Bless mother Malawi

On behalf of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi

Chris Chisoni- National Secretary December 6, 2014.

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