Some concerned citizens have described the proposed regulations to award 60 percent of all contracts under national competitive bidding to indigenous black Malawians as “distinctly discriminatory and unconstitutional”.
The regulations dubbed Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) on Administration of Preferential Treatment Regulations 2020 and PPDA Participation by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Order 2020, were unveiled two weeks ago in Blantyre at a meeting attended by Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe.
In his letter dated September 3 2020 addressed to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority, human rights activist Rafiq Hajat said no one in Malawi can claim “to be ‘indigenous’ in the strict sense”, adding that the word is now being used interchangeably with ‘black’ to advance ethnocentric agendas.
He writes: “The PPDA and regulations are seeking to endow preference over other equally placed Malawian citizens based on nationality, race and ethnicity.
“This blatant intent to infuse preference predicated upon colour and ethnicity is in direct contrast to provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.”
Hajat condemned the regulations, observing that they are a blatant disregard of the spirit and letter of the country’s Constitution and the UN Charter of Human Rights.
In another letter dated September 3 2020, other concerned citizens— Robert Jamieson, Krishna Achutan, Keshia Osman-Meyer, Michael Antoine and Carver Bhima—said the regulations discriminate against anyone who does not appear to be either indigenous or black enough to participate in business on an equal footing.
“The contention, therefore, is that this section of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act promulgated by Parliament in 2017 runs counter to the express provisions of the Constitution,” read in part the letter.
Two weeks ago, Gwengwe said unequal sharing of the procurement ‘national cake’ has been glaring over the years, disadvantaging indigenous black Malawians.
He cited the 2019/20 fiscal year in which out of the K600 billion government procurement budget, less than 15 percent was taken up by black indigenous Malawians.
PPDA director general Ellias Hausi was not immediately available, but in earlier interview, he said the existing regulations seek to address inequalities, especially with regard to participation by black indigenous Malawians in public procurement.