Misanet.com / The Chronicle, 27 May - The Malawian Church, Muslims and NGOs stand firm saying that President Bakili Muluzi must see to it that Constitutional Provisions are protected and upheld. One should not change a constitution hust to "suit individual personalities," church leaders said.
The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), a protestant grouping of Christian denominations are in agreement with their Catholic counterparts in the country who have once again reiterated that they are totally against the ministrations of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) functionaries who are trying to "tamper" with the Constitution to allow the State President Bakili Muluzi to stand for a third term of office.
The MCC issued a communique after their meeting on the 15 May and signed by 16 denominational heads to declare that the churches are not concerned about personalities but about the principle of tenure of office as espoused in Malawi's Republican Constitution.
- Amendments of constitutions should not be done to suit individual personalities since no one individual can be the only best person for the office, the release states. This follows concerns throughout the nation after declarations reminiscent of the regime of ex-dictator Kamuzu Banda continue to be broadcast every day on the public media showing chiefs saying they are in favour of amending section 83 (3) of the Constitution to allow President Bakili Muluzi to rule Malawi "forever".
Another communique dated the same issued after a five day meeting in Dedza, Catholic clergy under the Diocesan Catholic Clergy of Malawi (ADCCOM) say there are crucial issues like health, education, the economy and social security that need greater and more urgent attention, rather than the Third Term issue which, they declare is for few individual and selfish politicians.
- As a young democratic nation, we need to give [a] chance to various politicians to exercise their leadership skills and enable the nation [to] mature democratically, says the communique signed by the outgoing Chairman Father Lazarus Girevulo and the Chairman designate, Father Mark Mkandawire.
The communique says the Third Term can be a hindering factor for thorough checks and balances on political activities and good governance and should therefore not be left to the Parliamentarians alone, claiming that the MPs may not necessarily express the wishes of the people in their constituencies.
In a related development, civil society organisations led by the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA) after having held a meeting in Mangochi last week have come out with a strong statement voicing concern and lamenting the fact that there has been no official statement on the intention to amend the constitution.
CONGOMA warns Parliamentarians that they should not use their powers arbitrarily to amend the constitution without consulting their constituents. The umbrella organisation for civil society suggests that the matter be dealt with through a rigorous and thorough consultative process. The organisation gives reasons why there is cause for concern including:
Congoma further suggests that President Bakili Muluzi fulfils his mandate to uphold and protect the constitution. "The President swore twice to protect the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi before crowds at Chichiri stadium..," the communique states adding, "The section on the presidency is one case in point that needs protecting evermore so now, since extremists may wish to present it as an ordinary issue."
An appeal is made to the President, as head of SADC to lead by example because democracy in the region remains fragile. "As a leader of integrity and custodian of the constitution of the Republic of Malawi we expect him to protect this pillar of good governance by ensuring that the process to amend any section of the constitution is characterised by the support of broad-based interest groups," the chairperson of CONGOMA states.
The Catholic priests likewise in their statement also expressed their concern over the gradual weakening of the opposition parties and civil societies which they say has been deliberately manipulated by the ruling party.
- We appeal to members of the opposition parties and the civil society to unite for a good cause and not to subject themselves to selfish motives of some politicians, it says.
The Catholic communique insists that because of government monopoly over the use of the state television TVM and radio MBC the Malawi nation is being disinformed since there is no chance for opposing views.
The Catholic Church in Malawi has approximately 5 million registered Christians which is nearly half of the country's population. The Evangelicals number another 3.5 million with Muslims making up about 12% of the population (1,3 million).
Two weeks ago the Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) through the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) also endorsed the rejection of an amendment to section 83 (3) stating that a limit to the term of office of any president makes the incumbent accountable, especially after his or her term of office expires.
The PAC statement insists that human nature has the great potential and propensity to gravitate towards abuse of power and corruption. "For Malawians, Dr. Banda remains a complete and convincing example," says the PAC statement adding, "We believe that the constitutional provision, section 83 (3), ensures that this tendency in human nature is controlled so that a leader is enabled to exercise power in a rational, proper and respectable manner knowing at the end of it all he/she will be held accountable to the people."
PAC observes, as does CONGOMA, that the campaign for a third term appears to be personalised as it revolves around President Bakili Muluzi the incumbent. The observations from all the organs of church and civil society call on legislators to resist the tabling of the amendment and targets the MPs requesting that they serve the best interests of their constituents and focus on spending valuable resources rather on decisions that will reduce poverty and improve the lives of the people.
A general call is made to all citizens across the political divide to cooperate in opposing any effort to erode the fundamental elements of Malawi's democratic
Based on article by The Chronicle's staff reporters