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Malawi's Prevailing Mood is of “hopelessness, betrayal”: Justice and Peace Officials

Mr. Boniface Chibwana, National Coordinator of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Malawi. Credit: AMECEA

Malawians are in a state of “hopelessness” and feel betrayed by their government due to the prevailing economic hardships among other challenges, members of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) have said. 

In a Wednesday, December 8 statement shared with ACI Africa, officials of the Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) say the feeling of betrayal is also occasioned by the shortage of medicines in health facilities, delayed procurement of maize by the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), uncertainties observed in the implementation of food security programs, and poor service-delivery in public offices. 

The CCJP officials call on the government to heed to the cry of the citizens and address the growing frustrations “as a matter of urgency.”

"It is common knowledge that the prevailing mood in the country is that of hopelessness, loss of direction and betrayal," CCJP officials say in the statement signed by the National Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana. 

They add that the current Tonse Alliance government "was voted into power because its campaign promises (which now we can correctly call propaganda) gave hope to most Malawians regarding being taken out of dehumanizing levels of poverty." 

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Less than two years since President Lazarus Chakwera was elected into office, CCJP officials say Malawians have lost hope "except for the few well connected." 

"Citizens don’t even know where the country is going. Recent street demonstrations are but just the beginning of the manifestation of people’s hopelessness, feeling of having been betrayed and their anger," they say, and add "The citizens’ anger is fueled by the general perception that the country lacks decisive leadership."

In the December 8 statement, CCJP officials say, “The soaring cost of living in the country is a threat to the enjoyment of basic human rights.” 

They add, "The existence of social injustices perpetrated, tolerated or neglected by those governing is an affront to the foundations of the Christian faith. Failure by the majority of Malawians to afford basic needs is inimical to the social and economic development of our society; a real threat to the sanctity and essence of human life."

Taking cognizance of the fact that the economic situation may be a result of the global economic phenomena, which has affected the nation’s macroeconomic environment, the CCJP officials say the government has an obligation to cushion the citizens from such situations. 

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They fault the government for “merely preaching austerity measures and calling for patience from the citizenry.”

This, the CCJP officials say, “Is a mocker to human dignity and is tantamount to Government’s abrogation of its duties.”

CCJP officials say they share in the cry of Malawians and tell the government to "urgently institute inclusive and transparent social protection mechanisms to cushion the poor from the social economic hardships." 

In the statement shared with ACI Africa, officials of the ECM Commission decry the reported shortage of drugs in public health facilities. 

They say the shortage of essential drugs and other medical supplies "raises critical health governance questions" especially since the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) has reported the expiry of supplies in the last three years. 

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CMST officials reported that drugs valued at about K10 billion (US$ 12.1million) have expired since 2018. The officials said the acceptance of "all manner of donations" without their knowledge have contributed to the expiry of medicines and medical supplies. 

CCJP officials say the lack of drugs "is worrisome" and call for "urgent accountability actions by relevant duty bearers." 

The ECM officials also urge Malawi’s Ministry of Health and lawmakers to monitor and audit drug management systems in the Southern African country regularly.  

In their four-page statement, the CCJP officials raise concerns about uncertainties around the implementation of food security programs, which they say “are a great threat to the livelihood of many.”

CCJP officials add that the security of the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP) commodities “is another apprehension in light of reports of theft of the inputs in some areas of the country.” 

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ADMARC continued delays in the purchase of maize is also an issue of concern for Malawi’s CCJP officials who says the interruptions "will lead to the economic exploitation of most poor farmers.”

“This is also a recipe for disaster as far as national and household food security is concerned,” they say, referencing the delayed purchase of maize. 

To address the food security issues, the officials of ECM call for the “depoliticization of the AIP to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency.”

They go on to recommend “an honest reform and review of the operationalization of ADMARC in order to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness.”

In the December 8 statement shared with ACI Africa, CCJP officials say they are saddened by the new procurement system at the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA), and note that its introduction "smacks of a slap in the face of ordinary and hardworking Malawians who deserve a good business environment." 

"Despite efforts by the local haulage to have NOCMA officials use the Extank system of procuring fuel, NOCMA officials have gone ahead to introduce a new system called DPU, which was not part of the bidding document," they say 

"We are worried that continued failure by the Government and appropriate authorities to take concrete action on the fuel procurement mess entails potential rent-seeking and corruption," CCJP officials say, and pose, "Who is the ultimate beneficiary of this mess?" 

In their statement titled, “Heed The Cry of the People: The Call of Moses”, Malawi’s CCJP officials call on the leadership of the country to "heed the cry of the citizens most of whom have lost hope in the current Government’s ability to live up to its campaign propaganda – let alone lift them out of their daily worsening living conditions." 

"The growing frustration and loss of hope by citizens should be addressed as matter of urgency," they say and add that the government "should match its decorated local and international speeches with actions that would benefit Malawians." 

They further call upon Malawi’s political leadership to "walk the talk in implementing austerity measures in light of the undesirable prevailing socio-economic situation.”