Government has said it is ready to engage Catholic bishops on the issues they have raised in the pastoral letter released on Sunday.
In an interview on Sunday, Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako said government respects the bishops’ voice and contribution.
He said: “We have received the pastoral letter with grace. We view the Catholic Church as a crucial partner in the development of this nation. We respect their voice and contribution.
“We will look at the letter and engage with them to update them on some issues that have already been accomplished and those that are in the pipeline,”he said.
However, governance and political commentators, including the opposition, on Sunday said the bishops’ pastoral letter is a wakeup call for President Lazarus Chakwera to take charge.
They urged Chakwera to take off gloves and ensure that all concerns from Malawians, especially socio-economic, governance and corruption issues, are addressed and acted upon.
University of Malawi political science associate professor, who is also African Association of Political Science executive secretary Boniface Dulani, said issues raised by the Catholic bishops are common knowledge and a reflection of the public’s concerns about governance trends.
He said passiveness and slow decision-making on the part of the Chakwera-led administration, widespread corruption, an Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) that seems to be a major obstacle to government projects and nepotism, have all been the cry for many Malawians.
Dulani said: “The fact that these issues are being highlighted now, two years into the Tonse administration suggests that very little is being done, even if public expectations were high in 2020 that the country was beginning a new chapter. Yet, these were similar concerns raised during the previous DPP government.
“I hope that the Tonse government, especially the President in particular, listen to these voices, heed and act on the advice coming from the Catholic prelates. Listening and reading through the letter, it is clear the bishops are not driven by malice or any dislike of Tonse government or the President.”
Dulani said the bishops are being passionate for the good of all Malawians, just like their predecessors who authored the 1992 Pastoral Letter, Living Our Faith were.
“The inaction on the part of the President is hard to explain. He obviously is having to juggle and seek to appease different interests in his administration. But ultimately, he is the President—the CEO of Malawi Inc—and Malawians rightfully expect him to make timely decisions.
“If he does not live up to public expectations, then Malawians might decide to recall him at the next elections. The President should reflect on the letter and act on its message. This is free advice that can help recalibrate the trajectory of his leadership and position himself as a President of the people.”
Political Science Association of Malawi general secretary Makhumbo Munthali said the issues raised by the bishops are not new, but it seems the presidency has been slow to act.
Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa said it all boils down to the fact that the Tonse Alliance administration has developed ‘executive arrogance’.
“How many times have Malawians complained? How many times have they taken to the streets to complain? Have you seen any action?
“The very same socio-economic and governance challenges that the Bishops have raised are the ones that Malawians have always complained about. For me, we have a leadership that is not decisive,” he said.
As part of the 30th anniversary of the historic Living our Faith pastoral letter, Catholic bishops on Sunday relived the spirit of the epistle by denouncing corruption and its agents that have kept the country poor and underdeveloped.
In the pastoral letter read to the faithful in commemorating the landmark March 8 1992 Lenten Letter which was influential in changing the country’s political landscape, the bishops have described the present environment in the country as dehuminising with the country regressing in some areas.
The letter, titled Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of Living Our Faith, marks the beginning of this year’s Lenten Season which started on Ash Wednesday.
Bishops who have signed the letter include Montfort Stima of Mangochi Diocese, Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga Diocese, Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa Diocese, John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese and Peter Chifukwa of Dedza Diocese.