Political commentators and civil society groups have dared President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration to improve on its reaction to people’s concerns, saying the continued negative feelings towards the administration is a vote of no confidence.
The reactions were expressed in interviews yesterday following the pastoral letter issued by the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) which highlighted governance concerns under Chakwera and the nine political-party Tonse Alliance.
In its letter read yesterday in the synod’s 227 churches mostly located in the Central Region, Nkhoma Synod accused government of failing to manage the cost of living, unfulfilled campaign promises and failure to address corruption and nepotism.
The synod said recruitment in the public service is based on personal connections to the ruling elite and that public procurement favoured foreign and local bidders with political connections.
Reads the letter in part: “[There is failure to account for and recover misappropriated public funds such as K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds, and the 41st Sadc Heads of State Summit funds. We believe that this does not reflect Malawi wokomera Tonse [creating a Malawi that will give equal opportunities to all]. We as Christians and patriotic citizens must stand up and pray for justice and equitable distribution of national wealth.”
In his reaction in an interview, political analyst Ernest Thindwa said the repetition of governance concerns by different bodies was a sign that the concerns are falling on deaf ears.
He also said the fact that different bodies are raising the same issues showed how discontented Malawians are with the performance of the current administration.
Said Thindwa: “This means the concerns are genuine and are representing the feelings of the majority and this is dangerous because people are losing patience each passing day.
“What government needs to do is to show that it has heard the people by showing some action.”
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said in a separate interview that by now government should have realised that its silence on people’s concerns was eroding people’s trust.
He said: “In fact, people have already lost trust in the government because it’s like all their concerns are ignored. As it is now, pressure is mounting and the best thing the government should do is to act on people’s concerns.”
Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) executive secretary Habiba Osman said the commission has analysed the statements issued by different bodies and has noted that many of the concerns raised are touching on violation of human rights.
She said: “This is where the biggest problem comes in when human rights are being infringed. If you look at the concerns, they are about the rising cost of living versus economic challenges, there are issues of Affordable Inputs Programme [AIP] where several rights are also infringed.”
Osman said churches will remain relevant if the issues they raise have a great attachment to human rights. She also advised government to work to address the concerns.
“For instance, Nkhoma Synod has also raised the issue of fertiliser prices which keep rising, the price of passports which the [Tonse Alliance] said would go down to K14 000, one million jobs and giving full independence to governance bodies such as the Anti- Corruption Bureau [ACB],which are yet to be fulfilled,” she said.
There has been no immediate comment from government as the Minister of Information and Digitasation Gospel Kazako, who is also the government spokesperson, was yet to respond to our questionnaire.
Presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda refused to comment on the issue, referring us back to Kazako.
“You may be aware that Honourable Gospel Kazako is the government spokesperson being the Minister of Information. You may wish to direct the questions to him,” he said.
Nkhoma Synod has joined the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), the Public Affairs Committee, MHRC and HRDC which have previously issued statements condemning the current administration for poor governance.
Besides its earlier statement expressing concern on governance, ECM also issued a pastoral letter in which it catalogued the challenges facing Malawians and demanded action from the leadership.