Catholic bishops have given President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance team a fail rating for worsening Malawians’ plight after failing to implement glorious campaign promises two years after assuming power.
In a pastoral statement issued on Monday under the theme ‘A call to hearken to the cry of poor Malawians’, the bishops under the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) said the change Malawians were promised in the campaign for the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election held on June 23 2020 is nowhere to be seen as the promises are far from being realised.
The bishops said they are concerned with corruption, poor service delivery systems, inconsistent implementation of austerity measures, bleak picture of the oncoming crop growing season and the Tonse Alliance administration’s retrogressive way of governing.
Drawing comparisons from other countries and apparently dismissing the Tonse Alliance administration’s justification that the worsening economic s i t u a t i o n w a s a g l o b a l phenomenon, the statement reads in part: “Even when such ch a l l enges as the hurricanes, Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine are factored in, our humble, but honest submission is that we have missed out on leadership to seize opportunities, policy direction and intervention critically sought for at such times.
“The end result seems to be a Malawi worse off than what we were promised and looked forward to in a region where most of our neighbouring countries, affected by the same challenges, are registering meaningful human and economic progress.”
On corruption, the bishops say they expected government and relevant agencies entrusted with leading the fight against corruption to decisively and effectively combat this social ill that has become a cause for worry.
They said: “Is there a serious cooperation and coordination among government institutions mandated to deal with corruption? Why is there lack of noticeable progress on many corruption cases that involve the politically and business connected?
“Why are there long delays in any action being taken in response to reports submitted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB] to the relevant authorities? Who is being protected? Whose interests are being served?”
What is more appalling, the bishops said, is that government is not demonstrating sensitivity to the prevailing socio-economic realities by, among other things, fai l ing to implement own austerity measures amid the harsh economic times.
T h e b i s h o p s ’ sentiments come barely two months after findings of an Afrobarometer survey showed that the Tonse Alliance would trail the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) if elections were held at the time of data capture in February.
The Afrobarometer survey, which measures public perceptions on governance and other issues, also found that about 80 percent of Malawians thought the country was heading in the wrong direction.
The major highlight of the findings of the survey conducted between February 14 and 24 this year was that there is eroded trust in the Tonse Alliance administration.
In an interview when the findings were released in August this year, political scientist Makhumbo Munthali said while the survey was conducted in February, the outcome would not be different if the survey was done now.
The survey respondents also expressed similar concerns as the bishops on fighting corruption, governance and the economy.
Reacting to the bishops’ statement, ACB National I n t e g r i t y C o m m i t t e e chairperson Jeff Kabondo said the clerics have looked at one side of the prosecution of cases where there seem to be delays.
He said to better rate the fight against corruption, one also needs to look at resources and technical implications when dealing with cases that cross borders.
Kabondo said: “There is need for good coordination between agencies playing that role of law enforcement. You also have to match resources versus the number of cases that they have to work through. I can imagine that on a daily basis, they deal with so many cases.”
According to the bishops, the daily struggle for survival among the vast majority of Malawians is deepening as Tonse partners spend time on internal bickering, jostling for political clout, cronyism, nepotism and focusing on narrow selfish political interests.
Since last year, members of the Tonse Alliance, especially from key partners Malawi Congress Party (MCP) led by Chakwera and UTM Party led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima, have been at loggerheads.
In June, Chilima publicly claimed he had an agreement with Chakwera that he would be representing the alliance in 2025, which the MCP politburo has denied several times. Chakwera himself has been silent on the issue.
The bishops decry that the situation is a serious cause for worry as it undermines meaningful development which would enhance the lives of people, especially the poor.
On the Affordable Inputs Programme ( A I P ) , t h e bishops have noted poor planning and inadequate coordination, lack of proper review on implementation, poor information sharing, and general uncertainty on the programme.
They have since urged government to ensure that the 2022/23 AIP is properly and fairly implemented and to creatively addresses the looming problem of food security.
The bishops have also urged government to, among others, lead by example on austerity measures, publish the Public Sectors Reforms report, and institute workable corrective me chani sms to r educ e the effects of the unstable macroeconomic environment
Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako yesterday said they have taken note of the bishops concerns.
He said: “It is a letter that will assist us to re-look at where we are. It reminds us of the mammoth responsibility we have to ensure that the lives of Malawians improve.”
O n c o r r u p t i o n f i g h t , Kazako, who is the official government spokesperson, said government’s major responsibility is to provide resources to the ACB to fight the vice.
He said: “So, we have capacitated the ACB in a record volume. We expect it to be independent and professional. We have gone to an extent of amending the law to ensure smooth flow of their operations.
“We also get concerned when there are delays in courts. The concept of separation of powers creates distance with the courts. We have limitations on how we can push the courts. We avoid being [accused of] interfering with the independent court processes.”
The pastoral statement yesterday comes almost eight months after Chakwera met the bishops at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre.
The bishops also faulted Chakwera’s administration in their 29th Pastoral Letter issued on March 6 this year titled ‘Commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the Living Our Faith’
Like the pastoral letter, the latest statement is jointly signed by ECM president Archishop Desmond Tambala of Archdiocese of Lilongwe and ECM vice-president Bishop Montfort Stima of Mangochi Diocese alongside members, namely Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of Archdiocese of Blantyre, bishops Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa Diocese, Martin Mtumbuka o f K a r o n g a Diocese, John Ryan of Mzuzu Diocese and Peter Chifukwa of Dedza Diocese.