The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), an inter-faith democracy watchdog, organised a two-day national stakeholder’s forum on inclusivity and federalism at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre from Monday. Delegates to the forum included representatives from faith community, the Malawi Congress of Trade Union, the Law Society of Malawi, academia, traditional leaders, civil society, the Judiciary, political leaders and international community. Our reporter Mercy Malikwa talks to PAC Chairperson Dr Felix Chingota who explains the reasons behind the forum.
Q: Why did PAC organise the stakeholder’s forum on inclusivity and federalism?
The Public Affairs Committee organised the event to achieve three main objectives which are, to promote common understanding on federalism among various stakeholders and those who influence the public by their media comments on regular basis; to locate the debate on federalism on an agreed roadmap thereby preventing violent conflict debate in Malawi; and to provide comparative experiences on federalism so that participants gain a broader understanding on the matter.
Q: How were the objectives addressed?
The stakeholder’s forum enhanced a common understanding on inclusivity and federalism in Malawi. Further, the event served as a dialogue mechanism by allowing people to share a common platform where they also gained a deeper appreciation on the concept of devolution.
Q: What next on the issue of federalism since PAC is just facilitating the meetings to create an informed debate on the matter?
To address the objectives, the delegates were divided into four groups and they came up with conclusions by way of a roadmap to define how the conversation of federalism should be taken towards finding a common ground for all Malawians. What PAC will do is to sit down and make sure there is cohesion on the issue. PAC will look at the responses suggested by the delegates and make a final report which will be used as we continue to take the debate further to where God leads us. However, PAC is positive God will help us and see us through the difficult times we are passing through right now.
Q: How binding will resolutions made at this forum be considering that in the past PAC has made several recommendations that have not been used by people in higher offices?
The Public Affairs Committee does not have any authoritative voice to order person responsible to use resolutions arrived at our meetings but luckily, PAC has a moral influence to its advantage. Whenever we give resolutions that people have arrived at during meetings to people in higher offices, PAC does not hesitate to take it to the public that this is what delegates at a meeting agreed and here is how the responsible person has decided to take the offered advice. So, the public has a final say on every resolution that is taking time to be put into action.
Do you think the forum is going to make any difference to people’s thoughts on federalism?
Delegates at the meeting included opinion leaders, people who represent other people in various sectors of the society such as traditional leaders, faith groups, civil society, and political leaders, among others. These representatives were chosen with the belief that they know the voices of the people they represent on the issue of federalism. Again, speakers at this meeting, though not having specific positions, were experienced presenters on the topics and were able to demonstrate patterns on the issue. At the end of the meeting, this hopefully has opened up another understanding in the minds of the delegates.