Pressure mounts on Joyce Banda's stewardship as Malawians continue to suffer
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has told Malawi President Joyce Banda to come up with economic policies that will ease Malawians’ suffering or face the exit door.
But government, while admitting that Malawians are suffering, said this week the administration is doing all it can to ease the pain.
In a statement issued at the end of a meeting for all eight CCJP diocesan chapters on August 22 2012 and sourced by Weekend Nation, CCJP is faulting the President on what it calls the breakdown of security; disrespect of the Constitution and rule of law; her increased and costly mobility; rising cost of living; her weakening of civil society organisations (CSOs) and failure to hold tripartite elections, among others.
The sharp CCJP statement follows similar criticism from Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) which stung the President’s bloated travelling entourage; as well as Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito who urged the administration to step down for failing to deal with the country’s worsening economic situation.
Just last week, Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa, while dismissing Cama’s calls for the Banda government to step down, also noted that Malawians are not happy with the current state of affairs as evidenced by strikes and rising crime rate. He called for a lean, technocratic Cabinet to tackle the current crisis.
The Banda administration, despite making some economic and political reforms, has failed to retain donor confidence, with all but the World Bank and the African Development Bank refusing to release budget support until government demonstrates seriousness on governance issues. Britain, for example, sees the absence of leadership at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) as a sign of weak commitment to governance issues.
The CCJP meeting was attended by CCJP secretaries from the dioceses of Karonga, Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Dedza, Mangochi, Zomba, Blantyre, Chikhwawa and the national office.
The meeting analysed and reflected on many socio-economic and political governance issues affecting Malawians today with inspiration from Catholic Bishops Pastoral Statement of October 2010 titled “Reading the Signs of the Times.”
The commission has since asked Malawians to reject imposed suffering under a government that has no policies to alleviate their suffering and yet its leaders are busy enriching themselves.
It warns Malawians not to be part of a rotten government as “a rotten government is maintained by rotten citizens who believe rottenness is in itself a desired state of affairs”.
CCJP also takes a swipe at Banda for weakening governance institutions and failing to respect the Constitution and the rule of law, among others.
The commission also asks the President to stop her daily functions; instead should delegate ministers or some senior government officials to preside over such meetings.
“We also note that every day the President has an activity in one place or another in the country or outside the country. While some of these activities are important, we note some of them could ably be covered by other government responsible officers [such as] ministers and principal secretaries,” reads the statement.
Cushioning people’s suffering
CCJP has urged government to put in place safety net projects to cushion the suffering of most Malawians as that would reduce crime. Government is warned not to take people for granted.
“Malawians are famous for being patient people as far as injustices and poor governance processes are concerned. This, however, does not mean they are lazy and they lack steps to change issues affecting them. It is self-evident that when they wish to have change; it does come without much ado,” warns CCJP in the statement signed by its national secretary Chris Chisoni.
CCJP also observes that people’s suffering is evident in the wake of shortage of drugs in public hospitals and the rising costs of drugs in private hospitals and pharmacies, thereby exposing the poor to premature deaths due to curable diseases.
Government is also under attack for failing to cushion Malawians from the effects of devaluation.
“While some employed may have experienced salaries upward increments; such increments have not succeeded in absorbing the pressure of the prices on the lower salaries. The impact of devaluation has in reality shown its ugly face to most Malawians who are failing to cope with life,” reads the statement.
The body has also hit government on security breakdown.
“While we value the tough talk from the President, the Minister of Internal Security and from the Inspector General of Police; we believe [that] nothing much, other than talking, is being done to reverse this insecurity trend,” the statement reads.
Baseless hiring, firing
Government also gets a whip for the mostly baseless firing and hiring of public officers that were hired by the previous Bingu wa Mutharika administration.
“The desire to replace key government positions with ‘experts’ cum ‘loyalists’ must not supersede the desire to promote natural justice in issues of employment. Government should make sure that in this process, right authorities and legal expectations are met and upheld to overrule suspicions that oftentimes these processes are inspired by political vendetta and witch-hunting coupled with the desire of settling scores of political opponents,” the report says.
JB positives praised
Despite the shortfalls, CCJP praises the Banda administration for abandoning the Mutharika era zero-deficit budget.
Government is also praised for normalising bilateral relations with the UK and other countries.
Banda’s administration is also commended for repealing bad and unpopular laws; and for improving space of engagement between government and non-State actors; for searching for truth and justice by commissioning inquiries into some national events such as the death of Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa.
Commenting on the statement, government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu admitted that there is suffering among Malawians because it is part of the recovery process.
He also said the President is coming up with solutions to the problems cited by CCJP.
“We cherish the way CCJP maturely talks on matters of national interest. It shows great sense of patriotism and sends the picture of peace and tranquillity that is there in Malawi. We commend them for that.
“We agree there is suffering, but these are characteristics of any recovery process from the failed economy. President Joyce Banda is not sleeping, but finding means and ways of cushioning Malawians against the impacts of the measures that had to be taken to ensure that we recover from the economic plunge the soonest time possible,” said Kunkuyu on Tuesday.