Presidential adviser on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Martha Kwataine has said President Lazarus Chakwera is ready to face civil society organisations (CSOs) that have constructive ideas on national building.
She was speaking during a governance and human rights commentators dinner meeting on expanding the civic space to safeguard Malawi’s democracy organised by Citizen Alliance at Lilongwe Hotel on Friday night.
Said Kwataine: “The President is willing to promote indigenous organisations and he is ready to be challenged and engaged with constructive ideas.”
But governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali in an interview said it will be a big milestone in democracy if the President keeps his words.
He said: “We are coming from a background where presidents promise good tidings in terms of civic space but do the opposite so we will be watching.”
Munthali also advised Kwataine to understand the role of her office and be impactful to both the President and the civil society.
Chairperson of the CSOs and a citizens grouping advocating for good governance and respect for human rights known as the National Advocacy Platform, Benedicto Kondowe, said the civic space in Malawi has been fast shrinking.
“Despite that the post-independence era has seen the opening up of space for civil society, several worrisome trends have arisen in the recent years,” he said.
On his part, Citizen Alliance executive director Edward Chileka Banda said the civic space should be beyond ordinary freedom of speech, with the results being realised from activism.
In the previous regime, some CSO leaders, notably those belonging to the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, were arrested for criticising government, raising concerns of a shrinking civic space.