MARTIN CHIPHWANYA, CCJP acting national secretary, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP)
As acting national secretary of CCJP, which of your attributes do you think made the Catholic Secretariat to offer you the chance to serve in that capacity?
I must say here that I am actually managing a transition. We had Mr [Chris] Chisoni who was with us and then he moved on to other pastures. CCJP has got a lot of qualified personnel at its national office but I think I was just given a chance to manage the transition. In my opinion, I think it’s because of the little that I have helped to contribute to the secretariat in terms of advocacy and lobbying initiatives over the years. I think this is what made the authorities feel I have something to offer based on the experience that I have acquired over the years.
How does CCJP remember Mr Chisoni, now that he has moved on?
Chris [Chisoni] will always be remembered as a great man. He did quite a lot for the Commission and the church at large. I must say most of us learnt quite a lot from him. He is somebody who liked to do research so that we do evidence-based advocacy. And some of the skills and methodologies we are using today were set up by him. So, we will remember him as someone who tried to put up structures and one who worked so hard to make the Commission credible. This is the same mission the Secretariat wants to continue with.
The CCJP has been there for some time. Can you highlight the impact it has made over the years on the country’s social-political landscape?
The most important thing is that CCJP has been instrumental in making people realise that when it comes to voting, people should focus on issues and not personalities as had been the case in the past. The biggest problem with our political landscape has been the fact that people base their campaigns on personalities, tarnishing each others’ images and rarely bringing out issues and proposals on how best they plan to deal with them once ushered into power. But I think we have been instrumental, as a Commission, in championing for issue-based campaigns as evidenced in the run-up to the 2014 Tripartite Elections. Of course, there is still much to be done in this regard and I feel it now calls for concerted efforts from all relevant stakeholders. At the same time, CCJP has also managed to bring citizens who are the rights’ holders closer to their duty bearers like members of Parliament. There has been increased dialogue between citizens and the duty bearers over the years. That is something which is worth commending and we look forward to perfecting such engagements in years to come.
What would you advise government in particular and the country in general on efforts to develop amid climate change that has resulted in perennial food shortages?
I think this has been our major problem as a country, year in year out. We really need to start seriously investing more in large scale irrigation and training human resource towards the same. There are no two ways about it in dealing with this food crisis. We can’t go on blaming nature everyday while we sit idle as if waiting for a miracle of some sort. Countries such as Israel, Libya and Egypt have erratic rainfall patterns, yet they grow their own food and export the surplus. We have all the resources here and yet we are perishing.
Some commentators have attributed our poverty to the fact that people look up to government for each and every need. Where do we miss it as a country in terms of empowering households?
I choose to attribute this problem in the country to the way democracy was introduced in the country. People back then wanted change but they seem not to have cared what it meant. The government that came in the formative years of our multiparty politics basically believed in giving handouts to people; easy money that helped create a dependency syndrome in many which unfortunately kept on growing. People stopped thinking and doing things for themselves. They waited for government ‘manna’ which never came in most cases. Even these interventions being done my most NGOs [are responding to] structures that were already on the ground which communities neglected thinking that democracy would work for them. We really need a radical shift because this is not sustainable. We need to start soliciting ways as individuals on how best we can generate income; for ourselves, our households, our communities and ultimately, for our country. Patriotism is the key!
Does the CCJP have any new strategic plan going forward?
Basically, what we are doing is what we have always done. We are going by the social teachings of the church and we will continue doing that. But we will enhance investing our resources in our resources into research so that we mount strong advocacy initiatives based on an informed perspective. There isn’t any radical shift from what we have been doing. We will continue being credible, transparent and responsive to the needs of Malawians.