The Anglican Church has snubbed President Joyce Banda’s fertiliser donation to its priests, barely a week after CCAP clerics benefited from the gesture.
Chairperson of the Anglican Church in Malawi Bishop Brighton Malasa said on Thursday that presidential adviser on religious affairs Reverend Malani Mtonga approached one of the priests in the Anglican Church and offered the farm input.
“We have rejected the offer. [Free] fertiliser to us? For what? Government is distributing the fertiliser to the poor and let them continue with that. The church should not be ridiculed in that way. We can afford to buy fertiliser,” said Bishop Malasa in an interview on Wednesday.
Malasa said the church does not want to be dragged into politics given that the motive behind the free farm input is unclear.
But in a separate interview, Mtonga denied personally approaching the Anglican Church to offer free fertiliser.
“I am not sure who approached the Anglican Church since the institution [State House] is big. That offer is not to my knowledge. Our donations are given on request,” said Mtonga.
He added that State House is now careful in the fertiliser donation campaign.
“From the last story which you [Weekend Nation] did, we learnt a lesson. Let them [those interested] request for it,” he said.
Mtonga said the fertiliser was a personal donation from the President and that it was going to the clergy because they had programmes that take care of orphans and other vulnerable groups. He added that most of the clergy had requested for the fertiliser.
Weekend Nation reported last week that President Banda donated over 1 000 bags of fertiliser to the clergy of Blantyre, Nkhoma and Livingstonia synods.
Chancellor College political analyst Dr. Blessings Chinsinga questioned the donation last week, arguing the gesture could be interpreted as the President trying to buy out the clerics.
In the 2012/13 national budget, government allocated K40 billion to buy fertiliser and seed and distribute it to 1.5 million poorest farming families who would buy the fertiliser at a heavily subsidised price of K500 per 50kg bag.
But last week, Weekend Nation revealed that government has silently bought an additional 4 440 metric tonnes (MT) of fertiliser for the 2012/13 Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) to benefit 44 000 more beneficiaries.
Then, this week, the Ministry of Finance announced—as part of a report on the achievements of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP)—that the Fisp budget now stands at K57 billion, which is K17 billion or nearly 43 percent more than the approved budget.
The revised allocation was for the purchase of a combined 155 000 MT, comprising 77 500 MT of Urea and 77 500 MT of NPK fertilisers meant for 1.54 million households.
Critics suspect that part of the additional fertiliser is the one that State House is distributing freely to influential groups such as the clergy and chiefs to win political favours.
Commenting on the Anglican Church’s stance on the State House fertiliser, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) commended the church for rejecting the State House offer, saying the clergy can afford to buy the input on their own.
“Men of God of Blantyre Synod and other synods who received the fertiliser are among few Malawians that can afford nsima and a bag of fertiliser as compared to many poor and marginalised synod faithful and many other Malawians.
“We hope this [fertiliser] was not targeted at buying a process that seeks to wound the conscience of the Men of God as to influence them to practise court religion through which they only praise government of the day. We can, however, breathe a sigh of relief when we learn that the Anglican clergy have rejected the donation,” said CCJP national secretary Chris Chisoni.