Bishops in Malawi Worried about Economic Hardship, Urge State to Fulfill Election Promises

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) pose with President Lazarus Chakwera. Credit: Courtesy Photo

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) have expressed concern over the worsening food security crisis in the country and called on the country’s ruling Tonse Alliance to act fast to tame the hunger in line with their election promises.

In their Monday, October 10 pastoral statement titled, “A Call to Hearken to the Cry of Poor Malawians”, ECM members express regret that the government’s promises of a better Malawi “are far from being realized” in a country where people continue to grapple with worsening inflation, and biting food price increases, among other challenges.

“We painfully recall that when slightly over two years ago we went to the polls and ushered in a new government we did so on the premises of what we thought were credible campaign promises of a new Malawi coming our way. Regrettably, and this seems to be the verdict of many sober Malawians, the much-touted promises of change are far from being realized,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi say.

They add, “The daily struggle for survival for the vast majority of Malawians only deepens.”

According to the Bishops, the emerging challenges owing to the COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine are not entirely to blame for the current hunger crisis in Malawi, as the neighbors of the Southeastern African nation seem to be holding up relatively fine.


The country’s challenges, ECM members say, stem from poor leadership, which they say has pushed Malawi to a worse situation than it was in previous regimes.

“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 neighboring countries, affected by the same challenges, are registering meaningful human and economic progress,” they say.

Those who appended their signatures to the October 10 statement were Archbishop George Desmond Tambala of the Archdiocese of Lilongwe who also serves as the ECM President and Bishop Montfort Stima of Mangochi who also serves as the ECM Vice President.

Others were Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa of the Archdiocese of Blantyre, Bishop Peter Martin Musikuwa of the Diocese of Chikwawa, Bishop Martin Anwel Mtumbuka of the Diocese of Karonga, Bishop John Alphonsus Ryan of the Diocese of Mzuzu, and Bishop Peter Adrian Chifukwa of the Diocese of Dedza.

In their pastoral statement, ECM members highlight a myriad of challenges that Malawians continue to grapple with, including corruption and defective service delivery systems, which they conclude are signs of “institutional failure”.

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They decry the inconsistencies in the government’s promises on spending and the actual current expenditure, which they say has painted a hypocritical government.

“A listening government truly in touch with people behaves in a fashion that is sensitive to the prevailing socio-economic realities. It was in this spirit that we welcomed the Government's expenditure control measures introduced mid this year as a necessary response to these realities,” Catholic Bishops in Malawi say. 

They go on to pose, “Is what we see happening a total show of hypocrisy? Isn't the leadership of the country supposed to be exemplary on the expenditure control measures? Why are the leaders contradicting themselves and engaging and undertaking what Malawians perceive as unnecessary internal and external travels, and in some cases, with large entourages? Isn't this acting in contradiction with their stated policy?”

“We call upon the Government to consider such disturbing questions and the right of Malawians to receive sober and informed answers from their leaders in such matters,” ECM members say.

On corruption, the Catholic Church leaders say that the vice is “steadily gaining root” in Malawi.


They describe corruption as a “cancer”, which they say is becoming an accepted way of doing things in the Southeastern African country.

ECM members lament that corruption is causing havoc across several arenas of governance and service provision, adding, “In line with the Tonse Alliance campaign promises, Malawians expected the 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.”

“The way the fight against corruption is being waged is posing more questions than answers: Is there a serious cooperation and coordination among government institutions mandated to deal with corruption? Why is there a lack of noticeable progress on many corruption cases that involve the politically and business connected?” they pose.

They note that honest and decisive leadership on corruption, especially regarding high profile cases and high profile persons, would send a resounding signal of serious determination to eliminate corruption in Malawi. 

They say, “It is also the Church's considered view that certain bureaucratic elements within the legal and institutional framework have deliberately derailed the fight against corruption.”

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According to the Catholic Bishops, the cry of the poor is getting louder and louder in the country each day.

The cry, Catholic Bishops in Malawi note, is caused by, among other things, the worsening general inflation with biting food price increases, rising youth unemployment, rising school fees, and inadequate medical services.

Other causes of the crises in the country include the fuel crisis driving up transport costs, exploitation by unscrupulous traders and business people, foreign exchange shortages, and lack of effective consumer protection.

ECM members say that to truly respond to “the cry of the poor” requires bold and viable public policy actions.

They however express regret that such public policy actions are being prevented and undermined by the vice of corruption, among other vices in the country.

In their set of proposals to alleviate the suffering of the poor in Malawi, ECM members suggest that the country’s government “immediately” and “creatively” addresses the problem of food security.

They call upon the Tonse Alliance partners to desist from what they describe as “worthless and needless” politicking focusing attention on 2025 general elections and instead focus their attention on governing Malawi in a way motivated by fairness for all and true development of the country.

The Catholic Church leaders find it unfortunate that Malawians who voted and ushered in a new government have observed that its way of governing is characterized by “internal bickering, jostling for political clout, cronyism, nepotism, focusing on narrow selfish political interests and disjointed stances on public policy by alliance partners.”

According to the Bishops, the current poor leadership in Malawi is a serious cause for worry as it undermines meaningful development, which would enhance the lives of people, especially the poor in the country.

“Malawians are tired of politicians who keep fighting for political power before, during, after and in between elections without regard to the development needs of the electorate,” they say, and add, “We call upon the Tonse Alliance partners as national leaders to collectively guide the people to the attainment of a better Malawi for all.”

ECM members call for collaboration of all involved agencies in the fight against corruption, and for the government to ensure that the Public Sector Review Systems Task Force's report is made public and acted upon.

They further call for urgent social protection measures to cushion the poor from socio-economic hardships and effective safeguards to protect consumers from what they refer to as an often hostile and exploitative commodity market.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.