Opposition political parties have joined civil society organisations (CSOs) in appealing to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to desist from abusing power by soliciting funds from State agencies.
The opposition parties expressed their sentiments yesterday in Lilongwe during a news conference where they tackled a number of critical issues affecting the nation.
The parties commended the five CSOs—Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Youth and Society (YAS), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and CCAP Synod of Livingstonia’s Church and Society Programme—for taking to task DPP to refund donations received from all State agencies for the Blue Night fundraising event held at Kamuzu Palace on July 29 2017 where President Peter Mutharika was the guest of honour.
Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera said the parties will support the CSOs to ensure that public money is safeguarded.
He also said this is the reason his party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), is pushing for the enactment of the Political Parties Bill which outlaws handouts.
Said Chakwera: “The Blue Night issue would not be the case if we had the Political Parties Bill in place. The donations to Blue Night is a pure example of handouts which are being discouraged under this piece of legislation.”
The Political Parties Bill, among others, will make it mandatory for political parties to disclose sources of their funding and outlaws handouts.
People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) president Mark Katsonga said the CSOs demonstrated patriotism by pushing for a refund of the public funds. He said opposition parties were equally not amused with abuse of public funds.
On Tuesday this week, the CSOs scored a point in their lobby for a refund of the public funds after Mzuzu City Council (MCC) signed a court order declaring that it would not honour its K3.5 million pledge towards activities of the DPP.
In the consent order dated September 26 2017 signed by lawyer Wesley Mwafulirwa, on behalf of the five CSOs and legal representatives of MCC, John Tennyson and Associates and witnessed by High Court Registrar at Zomba Registry Benedictus Chitsakamile, MCC admitted making a pledge to the DPP during the Blue Night fundraising dinner and dance.
Following the development, MCC—which was initially a third respondent in the case but has since been struck off—further commits not to ever make any contribution towards the DPP.
MCC has since been removed from the list of respondents in the case, leaving Lilongwe and Blantyre city councils as well as Lilongwe Water Board (LWB).
The U-turn has excited the CSOs with Mwafulirwa saying MCC’s admission is a victory on protection of the public purse.
MCC was one of the public agencies taken to court alongside DPP for pledging to donate public funds estimated at K13.5 million during DPP’s Blue Night fundraising dinner and dance.
In the civil cause number 41 of 2017 filed last Wednesday, the CSOs sued the DPP as the first respondent alongside Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu city councils and LWB.
Prior to the court process, DPP engaged the CSOs in dialogue, but the CSOs pulled out after the party postponed a scheduled meeting where it was expected to furnish the groups with names of institutions that donated to the party and the date it planned to refund the money.
Initially, when the CSOs, including Malawi Law Society (MLS), condemned DPP’s collection of funds from the State agencies, DPP secretary general Greselder Jeffrey branded the criticisms as zachamba (nonsense), an utterance that angered the CSOs.
She later apologised for the uncouth language and engaged the CSOs in a dialogue that has since collapsed.
The CSOs argue that DPP’s conduct amounts to misuse and abuse of public resources contrary to the country’s legal framework.
Under Section 178 of the Constitution and Section 23 of the Public Finance Management Act, no single tambala of public money is supposed to be expended unless such expenditure is authorised by an Appropriation Act or is a statutory expenditure. n