Malawi Civil Society Led Black Economic Empowerment Movement (MaBLEM) Taskforce
For Immediate Release
STATE OF NATION-HOOD AND PATRIOTISM AS WE HEAD TOWARDS 2019 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS: A CALL FOR CIVIL SOCIETY UNITY AND CONSOLIDATION OF ITS MANDATE
We members of the Civil Society Led Black Economic Empowerment Taskforce, takes this opportunity to communicate our concerns and free advice on the state of nationhood in so far as Black Economic Empowerment and Patriotism are concerned, as reflected in the mirror of the work of CSO’s in the recent past.
We issue this statement as an appeal and call to Nationals, Individuals, NGO’s and CSO’s as led by CONGOMA and NGO Board to act in a way of reviewing their roles in so far as accordingly and creating an enabling environment for local entrepreneurs to sustain their entities while guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of Nationalists towards freely chosen Political choices.
Below are the litany of the areas of concern;
1. FRAGMENTATION AND LOSS OF FOCUS BY CSO’S AND NGO’s
As a Taskforce, we have noted with grave concerns the deliberate fragmentation of the CSOs and NGOs community which has of late been the cause of concern among citizens and donor community. We have noted that there is a deliberate segmentation of NGO’s deemed to be supporting the Government with the other obvious group, believably supporting the agenda of the Opposition yet, when all are given the platform, they claim their actions are on behalf of the people of Malawi.
Our strong belief and conviction is that, it takes a wise counsel to criticise or condemn when the duty bearers are not doing the right things and reward or commend it for doing what’s rightfully demanded of them by the citizenry. It is therefore counter Good Governance advocacy strategy to rebel either activists or advocates as being pro Opposition or Pro Ruling Government! A progressive NGO/CSO should be able to use both strategies to advance and communicate its agenda.
Such divisions and classifications by NGO Leaders, has promoted a culture of non-consultation or sharing of both information and support. This has made the CSO space shrunk as the society is able to identify those nosiest leaders of organs as opposed to appreciating the gains either structure is making in their interests.
Unfortunately the Governance structures, have remained numb so as to control the situation hence all NGO’s are going about scot free, advancing agendas ordinarily not in the precincts of bonafide entities classified as NGO’s or CSO’s.
2. UNECESSARY USURPING OF ROLES OF LEGITIMATE ORGANS OF GOVERNANCE BY CSO’s
We have further noted a spate of actions by some CSOs and NGOs which tends to usurp the roles and mandates of bonafide and legitimate organs of governance. While as a watchdog, it is important to provide checks and balances, it is sheer arrogance to assume that all state organs in Malawi have failed to do their mandate and only NGOs have the best interest of Malawi at heart. Cases in point below are some CSO usurping the roles and mandates on legitimate governance institutions and lack of respect of
the same i.e.;
i. Unnecessary Condemnation on ACB
We note the unnecessary mistrust on the ACB and undue influence for them to do their work to the whims of the CSOs rather than in their own professional conduct. The pressure on ACB to cancel the use of expert services to undertake a polygraph test for its employees in the wake of a leaked MPS Food Ration Investigation report is regrettable. Whether the person(s) that leaked report are called whistle blowers or not, but their actions have a dangerous precedence on the future work of ACB. Therefore
as a graft busting agency, it is their duty to investigate the leak and seal off the loopholes and calls to the contrary are detrimental to its work. This is despite the fact that the services were not internally paid for and that the investigations on the substantive matter had not concluded.
ii. Demands on ESCOM
We are aware that ESCOM has been embroiled in issues bordering on misprocurement, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the past, but at the same time through engagement we have also come to appreciate the changes and reforms that are taking place at the electricity company. These reforms are on course as alluded to by the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and World Bank and other experts. While as a country, we are indeed right to be aggrieved on the blackouts that are happening, but we
don’t think that a decade of inefficiency, misprocurement, corruption, and fraud can be addressed within a short period of time.
ESCOM and indeed Malawians are suffering on issues of electricity due to the long standing inefficiency that has marred ESCOM for long time, but we are somehow pleased that changes and reforms that are occurring within ESCOM has started to bear fruits. While it is easier to call for resignation for senior management of ESCOM, we should also bear in mind that even the current CEO has just been at ESCOM for half a year and there has already been changes in other senior management positions of the
Company to address the challenges. Even the new Board is championing change and reform has just been in place for less than four months. Now demanding that these people must leave is unfair to say the least and we are not being honest as a country.
On a similar note, calls on ESCOM to cancel the Aggreko Generator contract which has enabled us to be running on Gensets for over 6 Hours a Day as opposed to original 2 hours, will collapse the nation as we will return to a 24Hour black out period whose results will be disastrous for all. It should be noted that Gensets at present day are providing about 78MW of electricity into the national grid which has enabled ESCOM to reduce the blackout period to 6 hours a day and pledge to further reduce to 2 hours
by December 2018.
iii. Assumptions that Courts are compromised
We are further baffled by the attitude of some NGOs and Individuals who continue to portray the courts as being compromised anytime they make a ruling and decision that does not favour their position. It is our considered opinion that the above have adopted an attitude that every person and including the courts MUST agree with their reasoning and anything to the contrary sounds compromised or underscores corruption.
Failure to respect the Court decisions on Chaponda case, the Lake Malawi Water Project Case ruling, Mulli Brother’s K3.1Billion compensation as well as the determination by the High court on the fact that Some applicants and NGO’s do not have a mandate to bring to court a matter of Criminal in nature on behalf of Malawians. These are some of the examples where CSOs impunity in failing to respect courts just because the ruling did not favour their thinking. However, its mind baffling that when the same courts rules in favour of the CSOs wishes like the case of the DPP blue night, they are upheld not to be compromised. We fear this is a wrong precedence being set.
Further, we query the wisdom in questioning a person’s right to the courts. While CSOs are at liberty to take any matter to the courts its mind baffling that the same CSOs would want ACB to investigate an individual who would want the same courts to help when aggrieved. The case in point is about Mulli Brothers claim for interest on funds held by the state. Mulli compensation claims, would not have been paid in the first place had the state responded favourably when the court ordered so. As a Business
person but also a Malawian, Mulli Brothers limited and its owners have the right to access justice when they feel the actions by the state injured them in one-way or the other.
It is our considered opinion that any person in Malawi has a right to seek justice and relief from the court when feeling aggrieved. This does not matter whether the demands are ridiculous in the CSOs analysis. It is up to the courts to make determination of the same. What is sad is that the CSOs would want to assume that by Mulli Brothers asking relief from the court, then they are being corrupt.
Again this is despite the fact that the matter is before our courts which puts the Judge at an awkward position
in all fairness as his decision may be affected by the “assertions that the claim is frivolous!” Yet he has to be seen to have done justice in all fairness.
We would believe that if any individual feels that any claim, such as Mulli,s is not in the best interest of Malawi, the constitutions guarantees the citizens be it individual or corporate to join Cases as friends of the court when we feel the process may not be fair as opposed to making sarcastic demands and starting portraying the courts as being compromised. A typical example is the Chaponda case, where most people cried foul on the outcome, yet no one has shown interest to join ACB appeal case.
These are but a few of the issues that points to the fact that besides mere advocacy on governance matters, there is an attempt to injure individuals or render State organs useless or to put it mild, for them to lose credibility and reputation for having acted contrary to certain individuals and organization’s aspirations.
This is the very cause that the Black Economic Empowerment seeks to address. We are concerned that as CSO’s we have always fought impunity by the state however, we are failing to recognize that within the ranks we are also living on daily arrogance and with the same impunity.
3. CSO POSITION ON ENGAGEMENT AND DIALOGUE
We are puzzled by some individuals and organizations position towards engagement and dialogue as means of addressing issues affecting the Country. We are still questioning the wisdom behind positions where leaders openly denounce dialogue and engaging with the Government over issues of national interest, yet expecting feedback from the same Government.
As human rights defenders, we should be the first ones to acknowledge that every person or institution has the right to be heard. We should also the first to note that any challenges in Malawi can be solved through dialogue and engagement. When we don’t want that, then we are portraying that our interest is not to change Malawi but rather to cause chaos and anarchy.
For the record, credible institutions like the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) emerged as a result dialogue with duty bearers and has continued to invest in dialogue and engagement even in situations the same could not be attained. This is evidenced by the i) All Inclusive Stakeholders Conferences that PAC organizes, ii) being a secretariat of the CSO led dialogue team with Government – Presidential Dialogue Committee (PDC) iii) the existence of a committee within its board for the purpose of
engaging the Government.
We strongly believe that as CSOs, PAC has given us reasons enough to trust in dialogue as results are there for all to see. Instituting something to the contrary, betrays the role that NGOs/CSOs are primarily established for which is to complement the national policy and programmes.
4. LACK OF INTER AND INTRA PARTY DEMOCRACY AND INCREASED CASES OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
As we head towards the 2019 Tripartite Polls, there are rising cases of lack of Intra and inter- party democracy as evidenced by Violence that is threatening peaceful holding of primary elections and Conventions by the parties; The use of bad language and insults at political podiums against opposing parties and their leaders; by passing party constitutional norms in dealing with internal matters but subjecting the party to –winner takes all attitude; Failure to accommodate dissenting views and agenda
of other political parties and leaders.
Almost 9 Months to the Polls, we are surprised that parties have not yet started preparing their Agenda’s for the country which will be covered in their Manifestos. While an attempt is being made in public rallies on what some of the parties intend to do once elected, we are yet to see the same promises in black and white where we can start engaging or use to hold them accountable at appropriate time. We are convinced, the time is now to consolidate and plan a clean campaign and identify issues for the campaigns as opposed to toppling and jostling each other.
5. LACK OF FUNDING AND CAPACITATION OF LOCAL NGOS’’/CSO’s BY THE
STATE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
Since the exposure of Cash gate, we have noted a poor trend where funding to NGO’s has completely stopped. There are a number of once progressive and mighty NGO’s/CSO’s that have since died due to failure to access funding. We have noted with regret that Donor Community has emphasised more in funding INGO’s who have taken up the local space for local NGO’s thereby rendering the locals voiceless or with no activity to showcase on the ground.
There is a great bias by the funding agencies towards International NGO’s who have well-built capacities and are already implementing mega projects. The local NGO’s have been reduced to mere state of issuing statements as they cannot longer afford a full media briefing. This gap has resulted in lack of ownership of most of development activities as there are few or no local NGO structures to sustain the initiatives.
We raise this as a serious concern as we head towards 2019 polls having noted that its only National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) which is doing civic education. This has affected the number of registrants and we are afraid that we might not attain a free, fair and credible elections which even the very same development partners would want Malawi to deliver.
Based on the above current submissions, we would like to call upon the CONGOMA and NGO Board to assume leadership in coordination as well guarantying sustainable CSOs space for engagement. Over and above it is high time that CONGOMA developed and enforced a code of conduct for NGOs and CSO leaders in Malawi.
As for individual and CSO leaders, we call upon them to reflect upon the original mandate of our establishment and avoid being abused by politicians of either divide. Of late it seems that politics and quest for popularity has taken centre stage as opposed to objectivity. It’s becoming more evidenced that the most advocated and defended are political rights as opposed to human rights issues. May we further call upon the state and its organs to continue performing their duties as required by law including unflinching commitment to dialogue and information sharing. For the courts and governance institutions.
We finally call upon, the indigenous entrepreneurs to unite and come together to support the cause for black empowerment. We have noted that local black Malawian entrepreneurs are facing stiff unfair competition and shrinking space which can only be addressed by coming together to fight foreign influence. This will enable you to build sustainable services to the people of Malawi
As progressive CSO and NGO entities, it is important to always consider the fact that we have one Malawi and we have a duty to redeem Malawi from the above ills without fear or favour. While we may be motivated by poverty or inadequate resources and capacity, it is ideal to preserve our integrity and patriotism towards our country and one another.
As a Nation founded on Laws, we need to respect institutions of governance at all costs and ensure that our roles as citizens, NGOs and the state are merely complimenting the processing that may have already commenced or may be existing, only lacking a push to be effected. Let’s refrain from creating enmities on matters we can ably deal with soberly without engaging each other into verbal attacks besides other unwanted parameters.
The CSO led Black Economic Empowerment Taskforce will continue pursuing a robust, all-inclusive agenda for local emancipation from donor dependency, hate ill will or victimisations towards a just society for all. It begins with all of us to play our meaningful roles to avoid confusing our people or followers thereby affecting the desired goal of nationhood. Malawians and Malawi, can redeem itself from the pangs of the current state of despair and laizfair attitude.
In Unity, there is strength!!!
Robert James Mkwezalamba
Coordinator – MaBLEM
27th August 2018