Civil rights activists, who relentlessly gave the late President Bingu wa Mutharika tough time, have conceded they are slumbering in the current President Joyce Banda’s reign.
They have, however, differed on why they are not taking the government to task over governance issues.
This has come in response to a statement by the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP), which is wondering whether the otherwise “active” and “vibrant” civil society was designed for the DPP and the late Mutharika.
“The DPP has noted that immediately the new administration took office, the civil society has to a large extent gone to sleep and have abandoned their role.
“This begs the difficult question as to whether civil society was active only to see DPP taken out of government, or whether civil society actions were only motivated by hidden agenda against the late [former] President Bingu wa Mutharika,” reads part of the statement released over the weekend.
The party further wonders whether this silence means the death of civil society at a time there are governance and rule of law shortfalls perpetrated by the current administration.
“Are current shortfalls in rule of law and recent constitutional gaffes, of little magnitude? Was the civil society activism designed to target DPP individuals and not the issues?” Queries the DPP.
Commenting on the matter, human rights activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire says the DPP’s observation is right since CSOs are indeed almost mute.
“It is fair to say they [DPP] have been vindicated that most CSOs are driven by greed, but since it’s ‘most’, it leaves out the upright radicals who believe in a new dawn for Malawi,” said Mkandawire in an e-mail response on Sunday.
He further said there is need for a complete overhaul in ideology in the civil society, adding new players should be demanded not only in politics but also in the civil society.
“We cannot push for a heightened attention on good governance when cowards and money mongers infest the civil society space. Without radical changes, governance in Malawi will continue to take a plunge,” Mkandawire said.
However, another activist Billy Mayaya, while implicitly conceding inactivity in the civil society, accuses the DPP of “pretending” to be democrats.
“That’s unacceptable. Instead of scapegoating human rights NGOs for their own failures, they need to do some reflection on their actions in the recent past and work on reinforcing democratic values within their ranks as a way of contributing towards a democratic culture in Malawi,” said Mayaya, who was arrested during DPP’s rule.
On his part, activist Robert Mkwezalamba said some NGOs were using this time to recollect themselves having suffered in the past regime.
“A lot of NGOs closed, others blew up activity budgets and some lost contracts they had with government [and] the donors too reacted in some NGOs by withholding support.
“This period, then, has allowed them [NGOs] to go back to renegotiate such support so that they can move forward,” Mkwezalamba said in an e-mail on Sunday.