Failure by successive governments to walk the talk on campaign promises, to implement development plans and fight corruption are some of the issues haunting and affecting the socio-economic well-being of Malawians.
This is a key message in a new book on democratic governance in Malawi released last month.
Titled ‘Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi’, it is part of a peer reviewed publication on ‘Years of Governance Strengthening’ put together by the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) and the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP).
It spells out seven issues, including failure to track budget, lack of intra-party democracy, dominance of ethnic cliques in government, and poor and declining performance in the delivery of public services as having negative impact of economic development.
Speaking during the first webinar on the introduction of the book on October 27, one of the editors, University of Malawi associate professor of political and administrative studies Asiyatu Chiweza said the mass demonstration in 2019 were not only driven by the flawed election, but also by deep concern about long-standing social, political and economic problems in the country.
She said: “There is an ever widening divergence between campaign promises and the lack or slow delivery of these promises.
“So all the political parties, they make promises and in most cases, they are beautiful promises but when it comes to the fulfilment, you find that many of them do not clearly fulfil the promises.”
Chiweza also said once in power, parties perpetuate clientelistic behaviour, forge settlements within the political elite, such that those connected to the political establishment have benefited at the expense of national development and the broader Malawian community.
She said the book decries continued fraud and corruption in government as well as failure by the civil society to act when things go wrong.
Lord Jack McConnell, a Scottish politician and a Labour life peer in the House of Lords, who served as the third First Minister of Scotland between 2001 and 2007, said President Lazarus Chakwera faces a daunting task to deliver for Malawians.
He said: “Malawi has come a long way since the end of colonial rule, dictatorship and periods of corruption at different levels, the different democratic elections have had their own challenges, the handover of power to President Banda [Joyce] had own challenges.
“Malawi’s democracy is challenged by the quality of life experienced by the people of Malawi and the ultimate test of any democractic system is what it is delivering for the people. Can people trust the system to deliver for them? This is the biggest challenges facing the new President moving forward. “
Recently, Chakwera launched the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) in a move analysts said is a manifestation of the broken public sector in need of effective reform.
In his speech during the launch of the unit tasked with tracking progress in the implementation of the presidential campaign promises, the President said the new unit in the Office of the President and Cabinet will complement the ongoing public sector reforms programme championed by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Between October 2021 and May 2022, the SMP and MaSP will be co-hosting eight high-profile, digital webinars exploring governance strengthening in Malawi.
Chaired by Chiweza, each webinar will feature one or more leading Malawian academic, and governance expert, presenting their chapter(s) in the book.