Buckling under pressure to respond to growing concerns of the weakening economy, senior Cabinet Ministers this morning went out of their way to explain the current hardships Malawians are going through.
But veteran human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula has told government that press conferences will not solve the country’s socio-economic challenges, saying they require divine intervention.
Mwakasungula also says Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) want a platform for constructive engagement in where everyone is involved, not just a few.
He was speaking during a briefing government organised at the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe to respond to concerns some CSOs raised last week on assumed leadership challenges.
The briefing was supposed to be a government-CSO engagement, but most vocal activists stayed away.
Ironically, CSOs that issued the statement like Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Human Rights Defenders Forum, Civil and Political Space also shunned the briefing.
Besides expressing disappointment with the absence of the CSO leaders, Cabinet ministers at the briefing went ahead to respond to most of the issues raised by CSOs.
While CSOs urged Mutharika to reduce local and international travels, Foreign Affairs Minister George Chaponda said Mutharika will continue to selectively attend crucial international meetings.
Said Chaponda: “The issue about United Nations General Assembly [UNGA] delegation was already clarified by the President, and he has not really been travelling with many people compared to his predecessors.”
On Cashgate, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said government is not shielding anybody involved in Cashgate.
He said government is doing all it can to conclude Cashgate cases, further challenging CSOs that claim Lilongwe is shielding some suspects to substantiate such remarks.
Concurring with Tembenu, Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe said Cashgate cannot happen now as government is currently able to reconcile accounts between the Accountant General’s office and the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM).
Gondwe also stressed the need for the country to find own resources to finance the health and education sectors as well as subsidies.
“It is not possible to have 100 percent funding in government with donors withholding 30-40 percent of the funds. The IMF [International Monetary Fund] has advised us to be able to cover own day-to-day expenditures in two to three years.
Government is embarking on stringent reforms to cut expenditure and we will have monthly performance audits,” said Gondwe.
Gondwe also noted that the real sector is struggling to produce, but argued that Malawi is doing fine to stabilise its currency, kwacha, as compared to other countries.
On his part, Education Minister Emmanuel Fabiano said government needs another source of funds to improve quality of education.
Council for Non Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma), Maxwell Matewere thanked government for the engagement. He also promised CSOs’ continued cooperation and availability on matters of national importance.