There is no doubt that the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is championing a good cause for all Malawians. Take, for example, the theme for the 6th All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference which was held from June 7 to 8—under the theme: ‘The State of Governance and Public Trust: Reclaiming Our Destiny’.
This theme was timely and properly thought through as it enabled delegates to deliberate on critical issues affecting them on a daily basis and what the people themselves can do to put the country on the right track.
The theme also rightly underscored PAC’s watchdog role of proclaiming the truth and holding those in power accountable.
In this regard, the conference, among other issues, rightly tackled governance issues, the rising levels of corruption, poverty, the plunder of the country’s resources, the failure by the duty-bearers to rectify the problems and what it is Malawians themselves can do to bring about the desired change for a better Malawi.
The problem though, is that the duty-bearers—government officials—always think that anything negative said about them is false and merely aimed at tarnishing the leadership. They, therefore, blacklist and put on a leash anyone who is bold enough to make the leadership accountable for its weaknesses.
The problem for this is that year-in and year-out, the government delegates go to and attend the conference ill-advised, and with a preconceived and insulated attitude. The result is that they criticize and reject anything that the conference puts on the table for discussion.
Surely, PAC would have lost its relevance if it was there to organise meetings where it expects delegates to sing praise and worship songs for the leadership as if all was rosy when in all honesty, there are teething problems in the country; when there is excruciating poverty; when Malawians are suffering; when corruption has been entrenched; and to cap it all when the people have been so blinded and indoctrinated to the point of failing to smell and get nauseated when they are being fed with a diet of falsehoods by those benefiting from all these vices.
It is against this background that I want to state that I liked the bold opening address to the conference by the PAC chairman the Very Reverend Felix Chingota. He set the right tone for the discussions when he mentioned that Malawians should not tolerate failure by those entrusted to lead. This was aptly supported by a presentation by Professor Garton Kamchedzera who said there is an entrenched ‘Okay Culture’ among Malawians. My addition is that this takes away the urge among the people to condemn, reject, name and shame the excesses by the leadership.
We all have an obligation to do something when the ship we are sailing in is sinking, indeed as Professor Chijere Chirwa rightly put it. We should not think that pointing out excesses in any administration is done out of malice.
I also liked the presentation by Economics Association of Malawi president Henry Kachaje who, among other things, boldly stated that some people in the same conference room who were only last year noisely condemning corruption because they were sitting on one side of the political divide are now looking away because they have changed colours.
For things to change for the better, those in the driving seat—the leadership must be the first to admit the problems rocking the country and only then can they enlist the support of the masses to help them work out a roadmap to route them out.
But if the leadership continues to be in denial, year-in, year out, PAC will be coming up with good recommendations that government does not want to hear about and act upon.
Against this background, I propose that PAC should put as one of the first issues on the agenda of its future conferences to debunk the ill-conceited feeling in government and ruling party that PAC is there to create problems for it. Remove the feeling that PAC is a problem child to be put on the leash. n