The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) consultative conference last week gave Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika 60 days to resign or call for a referendum in 90 days, failing which Malawians will demonstrate. George Mhango engages Chancellor College political analyst Joseph Chunga on whether the PAC conference would add any value to pressure for the President to resolve the countryâ€™s challenges.
Q: What is your take on the conference which centred on problems Malawi is going through right now?
A: My general take on the whole conference by PAC is that it shows that some individuals and various organisations are trying to provide solutions to the problems the country is facing despite that [Malawians are calling] for solutions from Capital Hill.
You should also recall that last year on July 20, we had civil society organisations (CSOs) voicing out similar concerns on socio-economic challenges and PAC is just adding [its voice] to the same after observing that no solutions have been provided so far.
Q: Was the conference and demands by PAC relevant?
A: My answer is limited to this because you have to understand the basis of the demands, and these demands are for quick solutions by the presidency.
Let me also say that the idea to organise the conference was good because of what is happening on the ground. Little attention has been paid to the July 20 petition issued by CSOs and as such, PAC feels obliged to issue the same calls. >From my understanding, such a conference was also meant to provide progress on various socio-economic issues affecting Malawi.
Q: The conference theme was â€˜Time to Reclaim Our Destiny.â€™ Do you think this objective was achieved?
A: We have no basis to argue that the conference has not achieved its goal because this is not the first time that PAC has conducted a conference to declare its stand on the countryâ€™s political landscape and offer suggestions to authorities on how to deal with them. If we remember very well, PAC contributed to the transition period from the one-party State to the multiparty democracy in the early 1990s. Again, PAC was instrumental in challenging the open and third term bids by former president Bakili Muluzi some 10 years ago.
Q: Some government authorities claimed that PAC had sinister political motives in organising this conference. What is your take on this?
A: All I can say is that PAC has all along championed good governance and democratic values since the early 1990s, when Malawians fought against the one-party State of the first president Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
I, therefore, find such assertions baseless that the conference had ill motives because all the people that attended the conference were duly invited. The conferenceâ€™s agenda was also publicised in the media.
Q:What have been the strengths and weaknesses of the conferences?
A: In the first place, many organisations did not attend the conference, including government officials. If all NGOs under Congoma [Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi] had been part of the conference, it would have been a great success. Their presence could have added value to calls for the President to address challenges or resign. I emphasise that Congoma was supposed to be there too, to support the two-day discussions.
Q: The President has not fully addressed issues raised in the July 20 petition up to now. Is he likely to act on the demands from the PAC conference?
A: I doubt if President Mutharika is going to act on the demands because some of the issues that were laid down in the previous petitions have not been addressed.
Q: What is your take on the 60-day ultimatum for the President to resign or face mass protests?
A: I do not see President Mutharika resigning because we have had cases where people have tried to demonstrate, but nothing has come out. For example, the July 20 petition is still not resolved. However, we have to wait for the resolution from PACâ€™s conference because anything that is to be agreed upon by members present during the meeting will have to decide the direction on whether Mutharika should resign or not. I also believe that the academiciansâ€™ statement for the President to resign or face protests was personal in nature because they are also human beings.
Q: So far, Malawians have been giving government/ the President ultimatums in an effort to have the current economic and political challenges resolved, but they have not borne any fruit. Is it time to look for other ways to press authorities to action?
A: While it is time to press on the authorities for action, the Executive was supposed to be part of the PAC conference to discuss problems facing the country for prompt solutions. However, the fact that they were not there, speaks volumes that time is not yet ripe.
Q: Any last word?
A: PAC is working within the same realms of asking for solutions. The organisation should consider what people want, which is, solutions to the forex and fuel crises, electricity blackouts, lowering human rights and good governance records. PAC should also come out clearly as to what would happen if the resolutions will not be met by the President.