Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has told the United Nations Human Rights Council that increasing distribution of food through political channels as practised by the governing People’s Party (PP) in the run-up to the May 20 Tripartite Elections risks creating inequality between those who deserve relief and party supporters.
MHRC, represented by two commissioners, namely the Reverend Zacc Kawalala and Marshal Chilenga as well as its executive secretary Grace Malera, submitted a report to the Council in Geneva, Switzerland following a report on the right to food presentation from UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Professor Olivier De Schutter who visited Malawi in July last year.
MHRC submitted the report on the right to food to the UN Human Rights Council as part of its mandate to cooperate with agencies of the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth and other multilateral or regional institutions and national institutions of other countries which are competent in the area of protection and promotion of human rights.
It was with this mandate in mind that the commission told the council that government’s politicisation of food would put access beyond the reach of the most vulnerable in society.
“It raises the possibility of putting political priorities above fundamental human rights priorities with the underlying consequence that those that are not associated or perceived not to be associated with the political grouping in question are most often left out,” the commission told the Council sitting in Geneva, Switzerland in a paper made available to The Nation.
MHRC reiterated to the Council that it had raised the concerns with government that the politicisation of relief items did not guarantee equitable distribution of the commodity to all deserving vulnerable persons.
However, government has not taken kindly to the criticism from MHRC and the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), with President Joyce Banda and PP parliamentary candidates intensifying maize and maize flour distribution in constituencies.
PP spokesperson Ken Msonda has defended the move by the President, saying her charitable efforts were meant to rescue the 1.9 million facing food shortages from starvation.
The statement also showed that MHRC concurred with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food on the need for a comprehensive report on the rotten maize from the Strategic Grain Reserves which was allegedly thrown away.
The commission also concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation of urgent reform of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme because it had been discovered that beneficiaries of the subsidised fertiliser suffered food shortage and required relief interventions from government.
The commission also asked government to be accountable and transparent in the management of public resources.