Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) board chairperson Voice Mhone, who leads the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Dialogue Team, has said the only items concluded so far are the demand to unconditionally reopen Chancellor College, the availability of drugs in hospitals and the review of repressive laws passed in Parliament last year.
But leader of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue, Retired Archbishop Bernard Malango of the Anglican Church, has argued direction on the remaining issues will be established by Friday.
Addressing a news conference in Lilongwe on Tuesday, Mhone said: “This means that we are remaining with 17 issues from the petition. This might be threatening, but some of the issues, such as the salary for the First Lady and the declaration of assets by the President, could be handled within hours.”
Mhone said should the CSOs see no further progress in the dialogue, they will abandon the exercise next month and leave it to Malawians to take centre stage on what they want from government.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Malango indicated that by this Friday all issues in the petition would be finalised.
Said the retired cleric: “Forget about that. Currently, we are in a meeting where we have all the questions being answered. We are expecting to present all the issues by Thursday [tomorrow] afternoon and by Friday, we will conclude all the issues. Actually, we are making progress.”
The dialogue has been stalling. The last meeting was held last October and the following one, scheduled for January 12 2012, failed.
TuesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s news conference was attended by CSOs which included the Human Rights Defenders (Malawi Chapter), the Civic and Political Space, the Governance Platform and the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC).
The CSOs faulted President Bingu wa MutharikaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s administration for being adamant and arrogant, a situation they argued has plunged the country into a myriad of problems such as fuel, forex and drug shortages; poor governance and over-borrowingÃ¢â‚¬â€with the country accumulating about $1 billion external debts in just under seven years.
HRCC chairperson Undule Mwakasungula expressed concern over continued attacks on human rights activists, citing this weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s arrest of lawyer and human rights advocate Ralph Kasambara as an example.
The CSOs also expressed concerns over governmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s continued stand to defend the zero-deficit budget; delays and sometimes unpaid salaries for civil servants and the prolonged Judiciary strike.
“We do not think that it is fair for the President to claim that this zero-deficit budget policy is not dangerous when Malawians are suffering,” said Civil Society Education Coalition national coordinator Benedicto Kondowe.