THE CHURCH OF CENTRAL AFRICA, PRESBYTERIAN
SUBJECT: SOME WORRISOME TRENDS, WHICH UNDERMINE THE NURTURING OF OUR YOUNG DEMOCRATIC CULTURE
“Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against their fellow-Jews. Others said, ‘We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough corn to keep us from starving.’ We are the same race as our fellow Jews. Aren’t our children as good as theirs? We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us…When I heard their complaints, I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them,’ you are oppressing your brother!” (Nehemiah 5:1-7, TEV)
“Some day there will be a king who rules with integrity, and national leaders who govern with justice. Their eyes and ears will be open to the needs of the people…they will act with understanding and will say what they mean.” (Isaiah 32:1-5, TEV)
We the Moderator and Senior Clerk of the General Synod of the Church of
Central Africa Presbyterian in conjunction with the Moderators and
General Secretaries of the Synods of Blantyre, Livingstonia and Nkhoma would like to express our deep concern about some current developments, which are seriously jeopardising the development of a democratic culture in our country. This concern of ours is rooted in a genuine patriotism characterized by a Christian love for the people of Malawi. We are fearful that if these trends are not arrested now, Malawians may stand to lose the achievements gained so far since 1993. Our main concerns are in two areas: political and socio-economic.
1.0. Political Concerns
1.1 On proposed and projected constitutional amendments.
We feel concerned about moves that are being taken to amend the
constitution of Malawi, (the Supreme Law of the Land) as put in place
during 1994/95, in the short-term interest of those currently in power.
The following are some of the amendments that are being proposed or only talked about informally:
The amendment to abolish the Senate or second house of Parliament
(already passed by parliament)
The amendment to bring non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) under
greater governmental control than has been the case so far (already
passed by parliament)
The proposal to allow the current State President to run for a third
term (over and above the two terms of office provided for in the
Constitution as it now stands).
The proposal to equip the State President with the power to appoint up
to 20 members of parliament (MPs) as is the case in neighbouring
In raising concern about these proposed and projected constitutional
amendments, we feel there is a need for us as a nation to build not just for today but also for tomorrow. We are especially concerned that the proposed amendments are, in the main, directed at extending the rights of those in power rather than those of the people (who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of any genuine democratic dispensation).
Our view is that any constitutional amendments we undertake at this
juncture in our development as a nation should reflect and incorporate
the following fundamental principles, on the basis of which the actions
we undertake today are likely to be judged in future. In other words, we would feel uneasy about constitutional amendments which ignore these
1.1.1. Those in power today have a God-given opportunity.
Those that are in power today should see themselves as having an
enormous responsibility that of leading or guiding this nation into the
new, democratic dispensation. This involves setting the example, by
playing the game of power and its rewards according to rules that have
been agreed upon and laid down. It also means that those in power should see themselves as faithful stewards of the democratic codes and
traditions by which we choose to live at the time of democratic
transition in the country. All this calls for discipline and self-restraint among our leaders. They cannot be free to change or manipulate the rules for their own benefit or the benefit of those close to them.
1.1.2 The challenge to lead and educate
Since democracy is still a new baby in our country it is still in
desperate need of nurturing and consolidation. What is required
to achieve this, among other things, is intensified civic education
on the vision and essence of this new political dispensation. The
rules and expectations of life in a democratic society, including
how best to discharge one’s civic responsibilities need to be
explained and reinforced. Changing the rules every now and
then, in the interest of overriding momentary frustrations, can
only confuse rather than enhance ordinary people’s understanding of our democracy and the way it is developing. In this regard, we feel it is a bit premature to amend provisions of the constitution before their workings have been explained to the people whose interests the constitution is meant to serve.
1.1.3 The need to keep doors of opportunity open to everyone
Those in power command enormous resources and opportunities, in trust or on behalf of the nation at large. They should never see themselves as being indispensable, and the opportunities with which they are surrounded as being for themselves and their staunch supporters only. On the contrary, they should keep the doors of opportunity open for themselves as well as for other aspirants.
In this, it should always be borne in mind that in a democracy
there are no permanent winners just as there are no permanent losers. This means that the winners of today should also learn to prepare for the day they will be losers. They should resist the temptation to make things difficult for others, because that same situation might apply to them one day.
1.1.4 The question of integrity
Whether we are called to a station of leadership or ordinary citizenship in life, it is expected that we should conduct ourselves
as men and women of integrity. Others should expect us to live up to the principles for which we have fought hard to reduce the powers of the executive branch of the government and in the process widens people’s rights, choices and opportunities. What they stood for was clearly articulated in the party manifesto they produced in 1993. They stood for sound, people-oriented principles. We therefore do not understand why those principles should now be negated or watered down in favour of narrower interests.
In summary we want to say that the constitution as it stands embodies many of the changes for which our people voted in 1994. It is not a perfect document but one, which is capable of meeting the interests of the nation at its present stage of development if faithfully implemented. What is required is to give it a trial run period of say more than ten years, and then subject it to a comprehensive review by a nationally representative review commission. Only then would it be possible to convince the majority that proposals to amend the constitution are being tendered in good faith.
In the light of the forgoing we would like to express our opinion
on at least three issues.
The proposal to allow the current State President to run for a third term
Let us be reminded that in the Proposals for the Republic Constitution of Malawi, which were presented to Parliament by the then Prime Minister, Dr H.K. Banda, in 1965 the issue was discussed and it was maintained that “the basic principle is again simple namely that the president should hold office as long as he enjoys the support of the majority of the people. Both the President and Parliament would be elected for a term of five years, but in the case of the President he would continue to hold office from term to term, unless and until he failed after a parliamentary dissolution to gain re-election by the people at the subsequent general election.” We know that in 1966 Malawi
became a Republic with a Republican Constitution. However five years later Malawi had a Life President. Malawians learnt a bitter lesson during the term of Dr H.K. Banda as Life President.
In the light of that experience Malawians decided to have the current constitution which limits the term of office of the President to two five-year consecutive terms. There may be advantages of the third term such as ability to maintain a good leader rather than lose him on constitutional technicality, or an assurance of stability and continuity. However there are these disadvantages:
i. In Africa it tends to lead to autocratic rule
In Africa examples of autocratic rule as a result of overstaying in
the Presidential seat are too numerous to mention. We mean here autocratic democratic Governments not the known dictatorships. On the other hand there are excellent democratic Governments who have overstayed such as Masire who overstayed as President of Botswana. But it is rare in Africa.
ii. Dr Muluzi may lose the international reputation he has built
Dr Muluzi is highly respected by the international community as
one of the greatest champions of democracy in Africa in the company of Mandela to an extent that he has received honorary degrees. This is due to his human rights record and institutionalization of democratic institutions and systems one of which is the restriction against third term. Removing the restriction to suit an individual will take Muluzi from the top down to the bottom of the democratic ladder. The question will be how could such a great champion of democracy destroy the very democratic institutions that propelled him to the top of the democratic ladder in the eyes of the international community?
iii. Malawi may lose reputation as a shining example of democracy in Africa
For the same reasons advanced above Malawi’s reputation as a role model for democracy in Africa will be greatly tarnished as Namibia’s has. The advantage Namibia has however is that they have a very strong economy. We do not have that advantage. We still depend heavily on the international donor community. In fact our democratic system is almost the only asset we have to attract donor money and foreign investment.
Destroying that asset means economic strangulation for the country with disastrous consequences.
i. Every person has a blind spot
Some changes bring excellent results. For example the change of
1994 to the UDF Government brought in excellent changes for the benefit of Malawians particularly in the human rights field. However, the UDF leadership has its weak areas (blind spots). Thus maintaining the same leadership will mean a perpetuation of the weak areas. Therefore another change now may bring in other excellent changes in another field like the economy.
ii. Personality cult syndrome is dangerous
If the Constitution is changed to suit an individual, that individual might start feeling that he is indispensable and that Malawi can not do without him and start building an air of super human status around him. The whole system may start revolving around that personality cult. This is a metamorphosis Kamuzu went through from a champion of the independence struggle in Africa to a cult figure in Malawi. The trouble is that it is the few close supporters of the incumbent (who benefit from the presidency personally) who build that cult figure and hero worship. Malawi should avoid a repeat of that scenario.
iii. Constitutions should generally not be changed to suit an individual
Constitutions are there for today as well as posterity. Constitutions do not serve an individual. Hence an individual’s personal circumstances are irrelevant to the Constitution. In the same vein a Constitution should not be amended to suit a particular individual. If the restriction is removed shall it be reinstated when Dr Muluzi goes? Personalizing a serious national instrument like a Constitution is wrong in principle. Malawians voted for the restriction only 6 years ago and have people’s feelings on the matter changed in just 6 years?
iv. Other leaders from the UDF will be denied a
There are leaders in the same UDF party who would like to have a go at the Presidency but will be denied the chance. They may not show it now because of fear of recrimination in the party but they have those ambitions. Hence third term will frustrate their ambitions. We will start believing again that only Dr Muluzi can rule this country, which is not true. It was the same in Kamuzu’s time. Nobody thought Dr Muluzi could rule this country. In any case it is said that a good leader is one that prepares his close followers to succeed him. Mandela stands out as a shining example of this. But instead of preparing a successor, the removal of the restriction will be entrenching the same individual.
We are of the strong opinion that the disadvantages outweigh any advantages.
The proposal to equip the State President with the power to appoint up to 20 members of parliament
Again let us be reminded here that in the “Proposals for the Republican Constitution of Malawi” already referred to above the issue was discussed and it was agreed that “the Constitution should provide for the President to be able in his discretion to nominate not less than three nor more than five members of Parliament without constituency election or representation to represent particular minority or special interests in the country.” The number of five was later increased to 20. Later this was amended further and President could appoint an
unlimited number. Malawians have not forgotten how that provision used to be abused during the past regime. It used to happen that a parliamentary candidate who was rejected by the electorate in a general election would all the same find his way into parliament as a nominated member of parliament (to the disappointment of Malawians). We do not want to go back to that hated system, do we?
Furthermore one wonders at the logic behind this proposal. Nominated members of Parliament are not very different from members of Senate. Nominated MPs will have salaries just like senators; nominated MPs will be without constituency or representation just like senators. In this respect one wonders why the provision of a senate in our current constitution was deemed unnecessary. Surely it was not on financial grounds, otherwise where will the money come from to pay nominated members of parliament? The only justification for scrapping the provision for was political because senate was given power to “debate any issue on its own motion, initiate Private Member’s bills and
vote motions in respect of any matters including motion to indict or convict the President or Vice President by impeachment.” On the other hand equipping the State President with power to appoint up to 20 MPs will mean introducing Presidential “supporters” into parliament (House of Representatives) thereby giving power to the President to increase his party’s majority in parliament through the back door. This will frustrate people’s democratic choice.
We want to say in very strong terms that we disapprove of this proposal.
Definition of “electorate” and its repercussions
The Supreme Court in the case of Gwanda Chakuamba and others vs. the Electoral Commission interpreted “Electorate” as representing voters who actually cast their votes and does not include those who did not vote. This is the law as interpreted in the above case. The repercussions of this law however, were reflected in the local Government elections held on 21st November, 2000. Some councilors cannot be said to enjoy the support of the majority of the registered voters. Surely democracy is understood as government by the people and of the people. If councilors are elected on as slim an electoral base as this, one gets worried about the future of democracy in Malawi. In view of this we would like to request parliament to consider amending this law and empower the Electoral Commission in future to declare null and void any election exercise whereby the number of registered voters who do not vote is 50% or above.
1.2 The question of leadership
It is a well known fact that the success or failure of organised group effort be it organisational, community or national level to achieve pre-determined goals is to a large extent attributed to leadership. Effective leadership at national level is a collective endeavour, and no wonder we have committees and the cabinet including various advisers to the president. It is to the Presidential advisors that we are concerned. While we appreciate the mandate of the President to appoint his advisers in different spheres of national life – economic, social, legal, political etc – the credentials and competence of some of these leaves a lot to be desired. The contribution of these Ministers and advisors to national goals depends on their calibre. We appeal to the President for the sake of the integrity of the institution of Government to take particular care in selecting his team of Ministers and advisors. These should be people with high standards and credentials and without moral turpitude and of high integrity and corrupt free with high conceptual abilities to analyze implications for purposes of giving sound advice. Failure to do this results in appointing Ministers and advisers whose advice is aimed at destroying what are seen as threats to their survival and the advice is mostly bent on satisfying self perpetuation and aggrandizement and not in the
interest of national development. Are we surprised with so much voter apathy experienced in the last local government election? Surely there are sufficient indicators to show the extent the rural masses have realised the fallacy of voting for leadership which will perpetuate its own interest and that of its “close supporters” at the expense of national socio-economic and political development. Malawians are tired of people put in offices who bring in unprincipled personal agenda and selfishness in the governance system.
Why should a few individuals continue to manipulate national principles and agenda for their own selfish motives? When shall the voter ever enjoy the fruits of his vote? We would like to see such mal-practices put to rest in the hope of arresting the current political decay and thereby renew voter confidence in the government machinery.
2.0 The Socio-economic concerns
Our concern here is based on the constitution of Malawi, which in chapter 3 and 4 commits the state to provide social services to the people, and also on the Vision 20/20 which records the aspirations of Malawians to be a self-reliant country with sustainable growth and development, and attain a middle income status with per capita income of USD1,000, with all people having access to social services, and also have a vibrant cultural and religious values, by the year 2020.
Our major concern is that the social condition and security of Malawians is far from satisfactory. The reasons for this include the fact that government programs, many of which are donor funded, do not meet the income, food security, health, and education and security needs of Malawians. The reasons for failure of these programs are many and they will be elaborated on.
2.1.0 Social conditions and security in Malawi The social, economic and security conditions of Malawians can be described by health status indicators, literacy levels, and income and food security situation, and physical security of persons and property. These can be described summarily as follows:
National health and demographic data is 8 years old. But localized studies show that the incidence of disease is very high, as can be evidenced by health care facility reports. Malaria, Malnutrition, upper respiratory infections, and in some areas of Malawi bilharzia, are the most prevalent diseases. Various indicators of malnutrition among the under-five year’s age group show that as many as 60% of the children are malnourished. Infant mortality rate is 124/1000, and maternal mortality rate is 620/100,000. HIV/AIDS has raised its own spectre and continues to create social and economic problems in the country, the most important of which are orphans and depletion of the young work force. Life expectancy is at 36, down from 42 in 1994.
Literacy rates are 40% for women and 71.7% for men. Although primary school enrolment has increased in the last 6 years to about 78% (reported by the Integrated Household Survey) due to the introduction of free primary education many school age children are still out of school due to a number of reasons, the shorthand for which is poverty or inadequate public and household resources. A minority of those enrolled drop out before they are functionally literate.
We do appreciate that access to secondary, tertiary and technical education has been increasing but the numbers are still low and the quality is yet to be assured through proper government regulation.
2.1.3 Poverty and food insecurity
Poverty can be measured by income per capita. This figure is USD230, but this masks serious income distribution inequalities which are at a gini coefficient of 0.62, (i.e. the gap between the rich and the poor is very high) one of the highest in the region. Another way to measure poverty is by the proportion of people who have less income than required to buy basic needs. For Malawi this is K915 and about 50% of the people are below this line. Poverty can also be measured by the quality of life indices (Human Development Index). The HDI for Malawi is 0.320 compared to an average of 0.380 for the sub-Saharan region, and 0.576 for other developing countries. However for the majority of Malawians poverty still represents inability to afford basics of life such as salt, soap, energy (paraffin), food , shelter and clothing. Currently a lot of Malawians are struggling to get these basics of life.
Yet another way of looking at the poverty issues is to ask which households are poor. Studies show that they are concentrated in the Southern Region. They tend to have little land, they are net buyers of maize; use fewer agricultural inputs and lack assets, they do not grow cash crops or grow them in small quantities; they get a higher share of their incomes from off-farm employment; have less education and higher dependency ratios; and are likely to be headed by women.
The national per capita calories available has not changed much in the last ten years except in years of extreme drought. But there are significant spatial variations as well as glaring household inequalities in access to food. It is estimated that as many as 50% of the households in Malawi are food insecure. The penultimate cause of food insecurity is poverty: inadequate household income or purchasing power, the lack of resources, which includes access to arable land, other forms of employment, lack of knowledge or education, technology,
access to preventive and curative health care.
2.1.3. Disparities with disadvantaged groups
The issues pertaining to gender inequalities in educational attainment, access to jobs and resources like land credit facilities are well known. These persist despite efforts by donors and government to address them. Some social groups like the disabled have not received adequate resources say for special education.
When leaders of civil society and public officials met at Kwacha International Conference Centre in February 1996 to consider the major
issues and themes for Vision 20/20, they were led through a study process to construct and reflect on alternative scenarios for Malawi’s future. These were identified as (1) Mkaka ndi Uchi, (2) Vala zilimbe, (3) Ukaipa dziwa Nyimbo and (4) Wafa wafa. Each scenario was based on some configuration of assumptions about the economy, and political governance, and cultural values. The vision aims at achieving scenario (1) by 2020. The situation in Malawi may be slowly converging to the last scenario and needs to be arrested before things get worse. The wafa wafa scenario was described as follows:
It is based on the assumption of bad governance and uncompetitive economic structure. The government does not enforce rule of law. It is not transparent and accountable. There is rampant violation of human rights. The economy deteriorates; there is rising unemployment, rising inflation, rampant crime, falling incomes. The people are disillusioned. There is growing apathy and laxity at work resulting in declining productivity. Firms no longer make profits and therefore resort to retrenchment. This contributes to rising unemployment and increased poverty and hence increased social insecurity, which leads to a breakdown in cultural values. There is increased prostitution, greed, selfishness rape and armed robberies. Because of the deterioration of the economy the government is forced to borrow from the donor community and is subjected to conditionality. This leads to more and more donor control leading to continued lack of Self-reliance, and indeed total loss of control of the economic situation by the government and the populace. (p. 29-30 of Workshop Report).
We call upon the government to look around and see whether we are not in wafa wafa scenario. And if yes, what is the Government doing about it?
2.2.0. Factors contributing to the conditions described above
The slow development of sturdy political and economic governance
institutions and the erosion of important social mores can be explained
by many factors which include the nature of the educational system, and
the lack of public morality and values for encouraging the development of these institutions. Most senior public officials do not really consider themselves stewards of public resources.
2.2.1 Weak institutions for effective delivery of social services
A pre-requisite for any social and economic progress is the existence or development of strong and functional institutions. In our context this includes strong economic and social governance institutions to oversee the ethical conduct of the private sector and to protect the rights of producers and consumers, and to enforce law.
2.2.2. Absence of statutes on social security
Although the constitution states that the government will provide social services there are no social security statutes. There are policies concerning various population groups. However after some threshold such policies could lead to disparities in the various sectors of the economy because of exclusionist tendencies. It can be argued that Malawi cannot afford to guarantee social security to all people, However the government is mandated by the constitution to uplift the living standards of rural people.
2.2.3. Ineffective social expenditures
Government budgets are ineffective in solving the problems of the poor because the expenditures do not reach them. Much of the resources are used by middle management in planning activities which include well funded seminars, study tours, and purchase of vehicles, which are not effectively used to deliver services to the people. This is related to lack of accountability and transparency. The major issues in provision of social services are those of access, quality, relevance of services to people’s economic opportunities (say in case of education); and social activities. Access is the more relevant criterion because availability does not guarantee access. Long distances, lack of fees and poor quality could prevent people from accessing services. In primary education fees have been abolished but pupils in some areas still have to walk long distances, and irrelevance of the service in terms of their economic realities and calendar of activities. In case of girls, they are excluded because of social values.
2.2.4. Inadequate macro-economic management
The rate of inflation is high and imposes a severe burden on the poor. Inflation averaged 9.5% between 1971 and 1980, and increased to an average of 12.5% between 1981 and 1986. The trend continued to 20% between 1987 and 1992, and 36% between 1993 and 1998. The causes of high inflation cannot be fully disclosed here but they include lack of aggregate fiscal discipline, and sometimes not so helpful behaviours of donors. For example during the presentation of the current budget the
government had committed itself to reduce inflation to 21%. But due to failure to meet fiscal targets partly due to delays in disbursement of donor funds, the monetary targets were not met so that inflation was 28.3% in December, and accelerated to 30.6% by February. In other words due to a combination of poor budgeting and lax expenditure control, Malawians unjustly suffer from poor program delivery, the negative monetary effects of government borrowing to finance deficits, and the negative impact on economic growth (and hence job creation) due to the
crowding out of private sector investment.
Malawi needs economic growth in order to reduce poverty in the long run. A growth rate of 6% is needed just to keep the country from slipping in terms of per capita income levels. This means finding a niche in the globalizing world economy. The non-diversified economy, which relies on agriculture, and particularly tobacco, portends gloom and doom. The efforts to spur non-traditional agricultural exports are not yielding satisfactory results. The ascendancy of the Washington consensus concerning market and liberal approaches to management of economies does not seem to provide Malawi with the capacity to engage strategically in the world economy. There is need to accelerate investment in job creating industries. This can be accomplished through guiding the market with supporting institutional arrangements.
The operations and funding habits of the donors show that encouraging economic growth is not their priority. There is a proliferation of consultancy activities and many of them are not implementing any programmes but just generating information that purports to support policy-making. The funding of some programmes prejudices the achievement of long term goals. For example the funds used for Starter Pack can be spent on small scale irrigation schemes that have long term potential, i.e. strengthening institutional support mechanisms for mechanized Small-scale irrigation.
In the short term the policy advice of the IMF and the World Bank have impacted the poor badly. The poor have suffered because of marginalization of social services, the inflationary impact of currency devaluation, and the way agricultural marketing has led to uncertainty in food markets. Although agricultural producer prices have been increasing, the majority of smallholder farmers fail to respond to the incentives due to small land holdings and lack of access to agricultural inputs. Privatization and retrenchment of workers in the parastatal and civil service was done for efficiency motives, but was not matched by adequate planning concerning the welfare of those
2.2.5. People’s growing dependence on safety nets
The cultural values of self-reliance of the people are being eroded by misplaced and opportunistic patronage of the poor through not so well conceived safety net programmes.
2.3.0. The way forward
2.3.1. Actions by government with donors
a. The description of the situations above indicates that programmes that aim to increase availability and robustness of off-farm employment, encourage the growing of diversified high value crops where farmers have land, and safety nets that are well targeted are likely to reduce abject poverty.
2.3.2. Actions by civil society
Increase civil awareness and participation in planning and implementation of development programmes. This means teaching the civil society what is required of the various arms of government by law and constitution of Malawi. Basic issues of budgetary and financial management of the economy can be transmitted to civil leaders so that they can have the knowledge to influence decision-making. Donors have given much funding to civic education on issues on environment
a) and population, and recently governance. There is need to broaden this approach to issues concerning provision of social services and fiscal and macroeconomic management.
b) Civil Society should form functional platforms for action and involvement in government programme planning and implementation. They should not wait to be invited or taken on board by government. There are many examples in these areas. In the social sector the role of civil society has been to act through NGOs that provide parallel services. This is not bad as it increases access to services. But there are many situations where if the civil society was involved in continuously monitoring service delivery some of the problems could be reduced. Areas of possible intervention are hospitals.
2.3.3. Actions by government
a. As illustrated by the Vision 20/20 Wafa wafa scenario, matters of political and economic governance, and values are very important in determining the social conditions of the people. There is need to strengthen probity and accountability in the civil service, and the various arms of government through establishing clear and transparent guidelines for all activities, and punishing openly and promptly those who do not follow them.
b. The government should desist from programmes that have short-term benefits, and increase the dependence of people on government, in favour of durable solutions. This includes long-term plans for the diversification of the economy into say tourism and manufacturing.
c. Gender mainstreaming in the planning and implementation of all government activities. There is express need for gender analysis of government expenditures and fiscal policies. The common wealth funding for programmes for disadvantaged groups.
2.3.4. Actions by donors
There is need for donors to change their funding practices in the following areas:
Rt Rev Dr FL Chingota Rev YA Chienda
Moderator CCAP General Synod Senior Clerk CCAP General Synod
Rev TN Maseya Rev D Gunya
Moderator CCAP Blantyre Synod General Secretary CCAP Blantyre Synod
Rev HK Mvula Rev HM Nkhoma
Moderator CCAP Livingstonia Synod General Secretary CCAP Livingstonia
Very Rev CL Chimkoka Rev AA Sasu
Moderator CCAP Nkhoma Synod General Secretary CCAP Nkhoma Synod