Recently, some civil society organisations (CSOs) have been in the news for what can be termed as right reasons. As most Malawians still have fear of the unknown, CSOs will definitely be remembered for their courage. It will be hard to forget what CSOs did by successfully obtaining an injunction from the Mzuzu High Court to suspend the former Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, George Chaponda.
Probably, this had never been done before because of the wrong perception about Cabinet ministers’ immunity. Most Malawians have the mistaken belief that it is almost illegal to drag a serving minister to court. The CSOs had legally shown the way and things will no longer be the same. No leader should take Malawians for granted.
At the moment, the maizegate issue is not yet concluded as it led to corruption investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on various stakeholders on the case. However, some CSOs thought it wise to hold demonstrations and raise awareness on various government shortfalls which need correcting. For example, the ongoing corruption, outstanding mysterious murder cases etc. However, some people want to believe that the demonstrations failed because of poor attendance and people at large do not support the idea. What such people deliberately forget is that it is messages delivered to government through petitions that matter. One thing to note is that the more CSOs messages are being ignored by government the more people take advantage and think that the government is weak.
Therefore, they start legalising corruption, nepotism, tribalism, etc. These vices mentioned here continue unabated in Malawi. There is need for President Mutharika and his government to look deeper into their style of governance.
Meanwhile, it is obvious that government finds demonstrations and petitions targeting it unacceptable. They claim that CSOs behave as if they are opposition political parties. Such a comment is just a show of ignorance. One cannot divorce politics from daily aspects of life. It, therefore, goes without saying that a stable political environment brings unity, which is lacking in Malawi. There is a lot of inequality due to politics of ethnicity. This is where CSOs feel duty-bound to bring the much-needed change in governance.
So far, it is surprising to note that government remains silent when some CSOs go as far as castigating opposition party leaders on MBC TV or Radio. They usually debate or discuss in a propaganda way. They are not blamed for being political. Why?
It is true that time and again government says CSOs must try dialogue instead of going to the streets whenever they have issues. However, it is equally true that holding dialogue with government is easier said than done. Malawians can remember well about what became of the 2016 Public Affairs Committee (PAC) report. There was supposed to be further discussions between PAC and the Presidential Committee on Dialogue. What followed were just excuses from the government side about why they could not meet. Finally, the discussions were abandoned. The recommendations to President Mutharika and government, which were made by Malawians, lie somewhere un-adopted.
Government should know better that CSOs have advocacy and service delivery roles in addition to their watchdog role. It is only when matters of governance are getting out of hand, that they are forced to react. Taking them as enemies of government is completely wrong and it means government does not like criticism.