Civil society organisations (CSOs) on Tuesday failed to show up at a high-level meeting organised by Cabinet ministers to provide a face-to-face platform to address issues a section of CSOs raised in a communiqué.
Some months ago, CSOs asked government to clarify on Farm Input Subsidy Programe (Fisp), give a status report on the country’s economy, water and electricity crises, public service reforms, Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme, and presidential and foreign trips.
In an interview at the venue in Lilongwe, Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango wondered why the authors of the communiqué failed to show up at the meeting.
He said the meeting sought to address some of the issues the CSOs had raised to find a common solution.
“We want to hear from the civil society on how best this government can be run. If there are problems, let us dialogue together and find common solutions. This is our country, therefore, let us build it together,” said Mhango, who is also the official government spokesperson.
Director of ceremonies and chief economic adviser to the President, Collins Magalasi, read to participants reasons behind some CSOs not turning up that were contained in a letter.
Read the CSOs’ response letter in part: “Why CSOs should be involved? We expect a concept note if this is an attempt to dialogue; otherwise, the arrangement does not meet any standards. We [also] need to know where we are starting from, the timing is not ideal. You could have given us ample time to prepare and consult.”
CSOs also described the meeting as a well-calculated move to ambush and embarrass them in front of journalists.
In an interview yesterday, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Timothy Mtambo, one of the signatories of the communiqué, said government only informed them about the meeting on Monday night and they did not have ample time to mobilise their fellow CSOs in other parts of the region.
He said CSOs were not ready to dialogue in the manner as presented by government.
In his contribution at the meeting, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe touched on the economy, saying government is working to bring it back on track.
Malawi’s economy is currently characterised by high inflation on the back of rising food prices and interest rates, and unstable foreign exchange rates.
Recently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission declared its economic programme with Malawi, the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), off-track and asked government to revise the national budget to reflect realities. IMF also revised downwards the country’s economic growth forecast from an initial projection of 5.5 percent to three percent.
Gondwe also spoke about broadening the tax base as one way of collecting more revenue.
CSO representatives at the meeting included Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) board chairperson Maxwell Matewere who thanked government for the initiative to engage CSOs.
Concerned member of society, Undule Mwakasungula, a one-time fierce critic of government credited for the July 20 2011 nationwide anti-government demonstrations against the regime of former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, was present at the meeting.
He advised CSOs and government to find a common ground from which to operate on; otherwise, the fighting will not help in solving matters. n