REMARKS BY BRO. OSMAN KARIM, VICE-CHAIRPERSON OF PAC EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, DURING INTERFACE MEETING WITH THE STATE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI, HIS EXCELLENCY, REV. DR. LAZARUS MCCARTHY CHAKWERA ON 22nd JULY, 2022 AT 11.30 AM AT SANJIKA PALACE , BLANTYRE.
Your Excellency, Rev. Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the President of the Republic of Malawi,
It is with great pleasure to once again revert to our dialogue on issues of national importance discussed on 18th January 2022, here, at Sanjika Palace . As you may recall , the said meeting was a follow-up to the 25th August 2021 meeting held at Kamuzu Palace in LiLongwe. It had set the tone of how serious PAC and Head of State Dialogue would be as a way of ensuring implementation of agreements on governance and economic issues.
Your Excellency, under normal circumstances, PAC should have come here to hear from you on the progress so far made on issues raised on 18th January 2022. Given the nature of your office and that your decisions are made public, it is our view that we initiate these deliberations based on public observations and our own. We do so once again , Your Excellency, recalling the conversation held in June 2021 during which you requested PAC to be providing honest and frank observations emanating from the grassroots level. As we said previously and we say it again today, this is the strongest virtue you possess in your leadership- coupled with your humbleness and calmness in managing constructive criticism. There are few leaders that have appreciated frankness in pursuit of their leadership. We therefore commend you for such an approach to leadership.
At the outset , Your Excellency, let me state on behalf of the delegation that whatever we raise as Public Affairs Committee should not be interpreted as hatred against any individual in your government. We simply consolidate public views for your consideration. In fact some of the issues we have deliberated on with Your Excellency are those we discussed with you through shuttle diplomacy as you were Presidential Candidate in 2014 and 2019 . You may recall the issues that anchored our advocacy on transformative leadership – which emanated from All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conferences from 2012. Those resolutions have been alive in our advocacy and dialogue.
Your Excellency, allow us now to make observations on your actions taken on the points raised on 18th January 2022 at Sanjika Palace. The action points are summarized as follows from PAC Remarks read to Your Excellency on that day: (1)Economic hardship (Mitigating Measures, Communication) (2) Cabinet Reshuffle (Cabinet size, Eroded trust on the leadership) (3)Nepotism (Daughter at Malawi High Commission (UK),Son-In-Law’s dual role) (4) Fight against corruption and promotion of Rule of law (Manner in Firing Ministers on similar alleged offences; Zuneth Satter issue) (5) OPC (concerns over former Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet) and (6) AIP (Review on AIP to determine sustainability). We examine each of them in the order presented above:
1) Economic hardship (Mitigating Measures, Communication)
Your Excellency may wish to be reminded that on 25th August 2021 and 18th January, 2022 PAC conveyed a general complaint on economic hardship faced by Malawians. During the latter, we specifically made mention of the need for working on the mitigating measures and better communication strategy on the economic challenges facing Malawi. On a positive note, we welcome the austerity measures your government has put in place. We will wait and see how much impact will be realized in few months to come. On communication strategy, gaps still remain for the public does not appreciate the current economic crisis.
2) Cabinet Reshuffle(Cabinet size, Eroded trust on the leadership)
Your Excellency, one of the issues raised surrounding the concern over the failure to reshuffle your Cabinet as pledged in the year 2020 was the size and unbalanced appointments of the Cabinet. Our observation is
that the public welcomed your reshuffle of the Cabinet especially on the promotion of Gender Equality. PAC joins those who commended you. Despite this positive stride, some still identified gaps on your action on the Cabinet. Your Excellency may wish to be reminded that the public will always provide checks and balances in a democracy no matter how genuine actions taken may be portrayed. What seemed to have emerged as a main public observation was the unbalanced nature of your appointments towards one region in the Cabinet. Although this may be debatable, PAC would like to bring this to your attention for your consideration in future. As an organization , we strongly believe that you meant well. But in today’s world, public policy formulation and implementation require inclusivity for effective political influence. Inclusivity strengthens accountability and transparency in the administrative systems. In this regard, we still take the view , Your Excellency , that the size of the Cabinet also remains an issue that ought to be reconsidered.
3) Nepotism (Daughter at Malawi High Commission (UK), Son-In-Law dual role)
We reiterated our observation that public concerns on nepotism continued to grow with reports that your daughter reported for duties at the Embassy in the UK. Coupled with perceptions that your son in-law doubles functions as Personal Assistant as well as Director of Communications compounded the situation. Having heard your explanations during the last interface meeting, we would like to note that such arrangement may not be reversed now. However, it may be of vital importance to consider such appointments in future especially when one looks at the manner Tonse Alliance campaigned against nepotism under the DPP rule. For all intents and purposes, the actions defeated the logic of advocating for integrity when you were in the opposition. We are not naïve as PAC in this regard. Your Excellency, they could be doing an excellent job in their respective areas , and indeed contribute to socio- economic development of this country.
Nonetheless, people will always compare your pledges to what is being executed now under your administration. The fact however remains that nepotism stifles the potential to unleash different skills from the general public – for it defeats the allocation of equal opportunity.
4) Fight against corruption and promotion of Rule of law (Manner in Firing Ministers on similar alleged offences; Zuneth Satter issue)
On 18th January 2022, we referred to developments (Sattar and manner in firing Ministers) on the fight against corruption stating that they cast doubt on your political will to deal with corruption in Malawi. We felt that media stories on the investigation by British and Malawi officials into businessman Zuneth Sattar appeared greater in size than the eye could see – which could undermine the integrity of the current administration. We had kindly requested Your Excellency to consider avoiding the use of selective justice in treating cabinet Ministers – especially on issues you are able to make decisions.
Your Excellency, in the recent past your action on firing and disciplining officials named in the ACB report has demonstrated strong leadership especially that you acted on those in high echelons of your administration. This has been commendable despite other gaps in the execution of the decisions. We wish to advocate for speedy outcomes – that where there is evidence your government should expedite the due process of the law so that truth comes out . This would reduce the accumulation of alleged matters of corruption at the ACB and avoid the perception that arrests being effected are simply political in nature.
Your Excellency, that you even disciplined those of influence in your government gives credence to the fight against corruption. Should there be another report from ACB on the alleged Satter case, please as government deal with perpetrators from all sectors of our society. Corruption should not only be treated as evil in public service but also in all sectors of our economy.
5) OPC ( concerns over Secretary to the Office of the President and Cabinet)
On 25th August 2021, during our interface meeting we stated that “the Civil Service is an engine for development and requested to reconsider acceptable leadership at the helm of the administration. We said that “ privately, you may know that they do a good job but if stakeholders such as NGO, Civil Servants themselves assess their leadership otherwise, then that also impacts on your leadership and execution of government policies”. Further, on 18th January 2022 we reiterated public concerns regarding the former SPC. Your Excellency, we commend you for listening to the public concerns on the issue even if in your assessment he effectively discharged his duties. There are times leaders take unpalatable decisions in administration for the sake of the common good. This may be one of such cases. The Public will definitely support and assess the performance of the new leadership at the helm of OPC looking at the media comments on the appointment of SPC.
6) AIP (Review on AIP to determine sustainability)
Your Excellency, during the last dialogue meeting our request was that the Government should consider a review exercise which could guide the direction of AIP in terms of its sustainability or define its exit strategy in light of the budgetary constraints we face as a nation. We are aware that one positive step has been taken. We note, Your Excellency, that the Ministry of Agriculture has almost finalized the development of a paper pertaining to AIP implementation. We will wait and see how the programme will be re-examined. The direction on AIP implementation remains crucial as you may recall has been a hot subject of discussion in light of Malawi’s national budget limitations. Your leadership is called upon to steer a well-defined path on the programme.
7) Lost trust ( concerns over trust being eroded)
Your Excellency, concerns over trust being eroded were highlighted during our last meeting. In this regard, we wish to quote our own words : “The trust on Your Excellency has been eroded so fast as a result of your approach to decision making. In fact, you made mistakes on day one of appointing your Cabinet, coupled with failure to honour the pledge on reshuffling the Cabinet”. Noting your recent decision making processes, PAC wishes to once again commend for decisions taken on reshuffling the cabinet although with observations; acting on those who are allegedly involved in Satter Corruption case; and taking decision on OPC leadership. It is PAC’s observation that although efforts are being made to improve trust, much more need to be done. The manner in which the Sattar case will be handled will determine how quickly the trust will be restored. The Sattar Case remains politically sensitive but economically an opportunity to turn around things on the corruption drive in Malawi.
Before we conclude, we would like to raise an issue that was not part of our remarks of 18th January 2022 but remains crucial during your administration.
Your Excellency, in any democracy legal reforms are an important process for conflict prevention . Previously, Malawi faced electoral stalemate because of weak electoral framework. Your Excellency may recall that a Taskforce on Electoral Reforms developed proposals for electoral processes. As we inch to 2025, a sound electoral framework is a conflict prevention tool. Violent conflict at times emanate from gaps in the electoral framework which are triggers of violent conflicts. It is in this regard that PAC would like to advocate for speedy passage of electoral reforms as developed by the Taskforce. The failure to pass these reforms will leave us with little time to popularize the laws passed from such reforms. Let us treat electoral reforms as a conflict prevention mechanism for 2025. They lessen potential triggers for electoral dispute.
Your Excellency, following your decisiveness on cabinet reshuffle, new appointments, and those allegedly named in the ACB Report pertaining to Sattar case there are opportunities to restore trust as long as utterances on ACB are not contradictory. We commend your government for providing more resources to ACB than previous ones. However, moral support to the ACB is of paramount importance in the fight against corruption.
We are aware, Your Excellency, the challenges still remain in dealing with grand corruption since it always fights back.
So too, the economic hardship facing Malawian will be another tall order in months to come. High fuel price is the greatest pain Malawians are feeling now. We however commend your usual call for Malawians to tighten their belt in the current economic situation because the global supply chain will continue to have an impact on our economic terrain.
Our position too is that Malawians have no choice but to brace up and collectively work together for the common good. Currency devaluations and skyrocketing prices seem to be part of the present economic order given the global economic deterioration.
However, this should not give government a license to ignore austerity measures on expenditures. It is government’s responsibility to help the poor find local solutions. The more Malawians cry , the more likely that they will fail to find solutions. Our actions should match with our words. It is in this light that PAC and other stakeholders have been advocating for reduced size of the Cabinet for our leaders to share the economic pain with Malawians at large.
Finally, Your Excellency, the ACB still needs your moral support. On the economic front, price of fuel has brought misery though it is out of global economic challenges. If there could be a way to reasonably manage it , we would implore on you to do so. Malawians require your leadership to give them hope. The lawlessness we witness today require the enforcement of the law without fear or favour. Your Excellency, no one is above the law in pursuit of the principle of the rule of law. Those who breach the law must face the wrath of it irrespective of status.