Civil society organisations (CSOs) operating under the resuscitated Grand Coalition have given the Joyce Banda administration 30 days to act on several governance lapses.
The CSOs have said if government fails to act, then taxpayers should stop paying taxes that finance government operations and projects.
And in an interview on Tuesday, outspoken Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said the President should immediately return home from her trip in the United States of America and resign.
Kapito, reacting to the looting of public funds at the Capital Hill in Lilongwe by civil servants, said Banda has shown weak leadership.
He said Cama was planning massive demonstrations including at the airport during the President’s arrival into the country.
During a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, the CSOs, among other issues, highlighted evident rising corruption levels in government, lack of clear sense of direction on maize scarcity, “Executive arrogance”; continued problems in the health care system and national security lapses as “serious matters that require urgent leadership attention.”
But government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu, who is also Minister of Information and Civic Education, has called for “some listening and understanding” on the part of CSOs.
The CSOs said they are not pleased that the JB government has not reconstituted a presidential dialogue group which dissolved following change of power after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 2012 despite government committing to do so.
“Since government is seen to be irresponsible to taxpayers, the civil society might consider mobilising Malawians against payment of taxes in whatever form should the government not take steps to deal with the alarming looting of public resources,” reads a communiqué signed by 16 organisations.
Clarifying the issues raised, Council for Non-Governmental Organisation (Congoma) chairperson Voice Mhone said: “Yes, in 30 days we expect tangible evidence on the ground.”
Mhone’s sentiments were echoed by Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) executive director Benedicto Kondowe who said: “We will sit down in 30 days and by then we expect maize in Admarc depots, we expect tangible evidence of action against corruption in government.”
During the press conference, there was also an attempt to compare the first 18 months of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) under Mutharika and the current People’s Party (PP) led by Banda in terms of corruption.
“The most evident difference is that there were a few people enriching themselves during the Bingu regime and now everyone who is close to the purse is free to loot,” noted Chris Chisoni, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary.
Sentiments of self-enrichment also led to the call for the President to publicly declare her assets to avoid questions of how she is amassing new wealth.
The CSOs also challenged the ruling PP to provide evidence on how they have managed to acquire so many party vehicles in just 18 months.
On maize scarcity, the CSOs have asked government to explain how the discoloured maize from national silos was disposed of, and why the President is propagating food distribution when Admarc depots are dry.
The coalition has also questioned the credibility of ongoing investigations into issues surrounding the shooting of Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo after the President already claimed knowledge of the culprits.
That, according to Kondowe, has the potential of pushing the responsible officers to simply live up to the President’s words without doing a thorough job on the ground.
The 16 organisations were speaking at their first press briefing after regrouping following what they called the missing of accountability, transparency and responsiveness in the governance of the country.
Political Science Association chairperson Joseph Chunga thinks “it is a very positive development to hear CSOs’ voice on national issues after months of strange silence”.
According to Chunga, the Joyce Banda administration has an opportunity to demonstrate that it is different from its predecessors by seriously acting on the reported cases of corruption and embezzlement.
But Kunkuyu has urged the coalition “to make sure that all avenues of seeking responses are exhausted before calling on action on the civil service which may result in paralysing the country’s provision of vital services like health care, security and others.”
On corruption and looting of public coffers, Kunkuyu, e-mailing from the US, said institutions like the ACB and police are “working on the issue and we are monitoring to ensure that professionalism is applied throughout.”
The organisations in the coalition include CCJP, Congoma, Csec, HRCC, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Youth and Children Affairs (Ceyca), Citizens for Justice (CFJ), Civic and Political Space (CPS), Church and Society – Livingstonia Synod, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), NGO Gender Coordination Network (NGO GCN), The Governance Platform (GP), Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn), Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and Malawi Congress for Trade Unions (MCTU).