After three weeks of disagreements among civil society leaders in Malawi over what transpired at the Mzuzu State Lodge during an audience with President Joyce Banda, activists have resolved to respect each organisationâ€™s opinion on national issues.
The CSOs made the announcement in a joint statement on Wednesday, saying it is indisputable that every individual Malawian or corporate citizen has the right to comment on or provide an opinion on issues of national importance
The statement follows a meeting the civil society leaders held on August 2 at Kalikuti Hotel in Lilongwe to resolve differences following allegations that during the audience with the President, some activists talked ill of an earlier critical assessment statement of Bandaâ€™s 100 days issued by three NGOs.
A report which Congoma chairperson Voice Mhone presented at the meeting confirms allegations that the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), the Pan African Civic Educators Network (Pacenet) and the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) were not amused with reports that their statement was disowned.
Reads the report: â€œIt is at this meeting with the Head of State that some CSO leaders are alleged to have personally belittled other CSOs by inference to the critical press release that CHRR, Pacenet and Cedep published on the 100 days in office of the current government.â€
â€œWhen CHRR, Pacenet and Cedep got wind of the â€˜bad talkâ€™ from those that attended the meeting, anger, emotions, swearing and counter castigations ensued through e-mails.â€
â€˜Different opinions respectedâ€™
But in the statement, the CSOs confirm that some activists commented on the assessment of Bandaâ€™s 100 days by the three NGOs but hastened to say it was done in personal capacity and not as a consensus of the group that met the President.
â€œIt is, therefore, unrealistic and unexpected for CSOs and indeed Government to question the very basis for the concerned organisationsâ€™ opinion on the 100 days of Joyce Banda presidency,â€ reads the statement.
It adds: â€œCSOs having met on this issue totally agree with this view, and hold that CHRR, Pacenet and Cedep are entitled to their opinion.â€
The CSOs have committed to continue working together in providing direct services in various sectors of development apart from providing checks and balances without fear or favour on political, economic and democratic governance.
In an interview on Wednesday, CHRR executive director Undule Mwakasungula said the statement was a compromise â€œfor us to move forward and help add value to our country.â€
Cedep executive director Gift Trapence said as an organisation, they are happy that consensus has been reached to respect each otherâ€™s opinion within the civil society.