Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has said Malawi President Joyce Banda must spend time in office and stop her “daily” trips.
CCJP national secretary Chris Chisoni said in an e-mailed statement during the week that the presidency is a serious office which requires the holder to pay attention to government business.
“Maybe she has officers in place that are doing her job. But although this could be a possible explanation, it does not become a necessary and sufficient reason for her [daily trips]. The presidency is a serious responsibility; it needs those who have time to sit and do the work. It needs those who show they reflect on the needs of the country.
“It is not an easy task. But if riddled with incessant trips, it shows either the officer is too big for one or there is little being done. As such, it is a cause for citizens to worry. Philosophies, plans, dreams and policies for developing Malawi will come from a thorough reflection process; but unfortunately, we are still seeing transition without transformation. It is a worrisome trend,” said Chisoni.
He said the President’s defiance by continuing with the frequent trips reflects badly on governance.
“We see continued executive arrogance, disregard of citizens’ voices, politicising of development processes and structures, lukewarm approach to issues bordering on corruption and graft, mere public rhetoric than serious engagement of stakeholders on socioeconomic and political challenges Malawi is facing.
“We have actually gone full circle to square one. There is enough evidence that if the trends continue, Malawians will seriously moan and groan [because of] bad leadership and a non-delivering government.
“Malawians must cry for their beloved country. They must wake up and live to force a better government. They must work for a better, responsive and accountable government. We do not have time at our disposal to waste as a revolution of values, politics, systems and ideas is a must now than before,” he said.
CCJP’s remarks come barely a week after Public Affairs Committee (PAC) condemned Banda for declaring that she will continue her frequent travels, especially to distribute relief food to Malawians affected by hunger.
Chisoni supported PAC’s condemnation, saying it is unfortunate that the President keeps on defying common wisdom and warned that she is mistaken to think that her errands will bring her votes and political triumph.
“As CCJP, we believe she had an opportunity to do things differently and that Malawians could have judged her based on the difference she would have brought. But, alas! She is replicating the populist style of politics in which she has to appear to be a caring leader when she is exploiting the hungry people with relief food distribution.
“We expected that all her arms of government responsible for food security would have been in the forefront, in any case, mentored by her leadership. We are, therefore, imploring her to heed what numerous voices are saying and have time to reflect on governance and development issues Malawi is currently going through. Our President should show she is listening,” said Chisoni.
He said Banda is politicising food relief because she spends more money to donate maize whose price is less than what she and her entourage spend in a day.
“It is a waste of taxpayers’ money and it clearly shows her zeal in the politicising food relief processes. Her persistence and insistence shows that she has other interests at heart other than mere distribution of food. But this is a negative precedent for our political leaders to make political mileage over the misfortune of people. We need to make an honest assessment and take such leaders to task for such blatant bad Samaritanism,” he said.
‘The President is a workaholic’
But the presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane dismissed Chisoni’s assertions, saying, “The President spends a lot of time in the office and transacts all office work.”
Nhlane said when the President is at the office, she also interacts with a lot of people.
“She is a workaholic. She ensures she has enough time for both the people in the rural areas and office work,” said Nhlane.
Nhlane justified Banda’s trips, saying she is focused on healing the broken economy and improving lives of Malawians.
“It is not correct to say the President is out of the office every day. But when she goes out, she does so for a good cause, she performs national duties.
Secondly, the President needs to frequently meet and connect with the people to get to know what their aspirations are. She also needs to interact with people to make an independent assessment of the situation among the people in the rural areas who form 85 percent of the population,” he said.
Nhlane also said the President’s maize distribution exercise is aimed at supporting 400 000 people who are not covered by the normal government relief programme which targets 1.6 million people out of the affected two million.