MALAWI: Bishops Call for Improvement of Public Service Systems Ahead of Elections

LILONGWE, MAY 26, 2020 (CISA)-The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM)has called on the government to make major changes in the country’s governance system ahead of the June 23 presidential elections.

In a May 24 Pastoral letter to the Church in Malawi, the bishops noted that the forthcoming elections provide the country with an opportunity to choose a leader who can save the nation from collapsing and make it unified, orderly and prosperous.

“Such a leader requires to have…honesty, democratic, transformational leadership, visionary, selflessness, servant leadership good stewardship, exemplary, decisiveness, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, willingness to step down being above tribal/regional/political interests, accountable and God-fearing,” the bishops said.

The Bishops lamented that Malawi is departing from unity and going towards fragmentation and tribalism.

“This is shown by tribal political talk, nepotism, forms of favouring one’s own area and one’s own region as well as the practice whereby politicians seek to gain votes by whipping up the anger of voters against other tribes and regions. This is a very dangerous road we are taking as a nation and we appeal to all citizens to avoid these evils of tribalism and regionalism,” they said

The bishops condemned political violence reported by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) on May 8.

“We condemn these acts of violence in the strongest terms possible. Anyone who subscribes to this form of violence is not consistent with the type of a leader we have described above and must not be voted into power,” they said.

They also noted with concern rising levels of impunity like killing of people with albinism, mob justice and the killing of elderly persons suspected of being witches and called for a speedy conclusion of these cases and a stop to these barbaric acts.

“Just as we said before, there should be non-selective justice when handling these cases,” they said.

They also decried the numerous cases of corruption and plunder of national resources.

“The biggest victims of these evils are the poor and vulnerable people. This calls for strong, decisive and exemplary leadership at the top…as we have stated before, systems and institutions of public service delivery are greatly challenged and breaking down,” they said.

The prelates pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how under resourced the health system is in terms of infrastructure, equipment and personnel.

“…for a long time we have not put enough resources into the system and some of the little that has been put into it has been misused. In addition, there was over reliance on medical facilities outside the country instead of developing systems of our own. Furthermore, the health care workers are under motivated,” they said.

They noted that the education system has also suffered limited funding, substandard infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, insufficient and under motivated personnel in addition to unstable curricula.

“We are seeing a two-tier system of education: private, which is deemed to offer better education for the rich and a dysfunctional public one serving the poor and the vulnerable. This promotes inequality in our society,” they noted.

The bishops lamented that while the Malawi Defense Force is mostly regarded as professional and enjoys public trust and confidence, the Malawi Police Service is generally considered as partisan and dysfunctional and has lost a lot of public trust.

“The Malawi Police Service is underfunded leading to inefficient service delivery and poor welfare of police officers,” they said.

They noted that there is still need for a more inclusive and coordinated approach, more public awareness campaigns and transparent use of resources in fighting Covid-19.

And urged that in the event of imposing restriction on mobility there would be need for social support for the poor and the vulnerable and such support should not be politicized.

They expressed concern on the loss of public trust and confidence in the current Malawi Electoral Commissioners, (MEC) calling for a transparent electoral process and issue based campaigns.

“We call upon all duty bearers to ensure that the forthcoming presidential election is free, fair, credible and peaceful. We also urge all Malawians to go and vote wisely, keeping in mind the consequences of not voting or not voting wisely,” they said.

The statement was signed by Archbishop Thomas Msusa of Blantyre, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka of Karonga, Archbishop Tarsizio Ziyaye of Lilongwe, Bishop Peter Musikuwa of Chikwawa, Bishop Montfort Stima of Mangochi, Bishop George Tambala of Zomba, Bishop John Ryan Bishop of Mzuzu and Fr John Chithonje Diocesan Administrator of