LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s two civil societies organisations Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) and Forum for National Development (FND) are demanding equal business opportunities for foreigners including Malawians in the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

This comes following numerous mistreatment foreigners are facing in that country when seeking for business and settlement.

Under the banner “Black Economic Empowerment Agenda (BEEA)”, HRCC and FND have always cited the media abuse Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has been facing while operating his business in that country.

The two organisations therefore instituted an investigation on the various abuses of foreigners in that country.

Below is the full statement HRCC AND FND released and made available to The Maravi post outlining various issues Malawi Government needs to engage their counterpart in RSA for mutual understanding;

MALAWIANS DESERVE BETTER- TOWARDS EMPOWERED AND ECONOMICALLY SOUND CITIZENS.

Introduction

Further to the HRCC and FND initiated CSO led Black Economic Empowerment Agenda (BEEA), this statement has been developed to share three crucial developments the movement has been able to execute and also seeks to execute as it moves forward with its agenda.

The sharing of these details comes from the BEEA taskforce meeting which was held on Tuesday the 19th of June 2018 where it review progress and matters affecting the cause.

It is therefore being shared for purposes of updating Malawians and further enhancing accountability on the part of duty bearers i.e. Malawi Government thorough the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the South African government to address the matters we have raised with urgency.

Most often than not, matters of diplomacy tend to receive cord shoulders hence it is our desire to alert the public on matters on the table for wider awareness and speedy address.

In this regard we would like to share with the public that HRCC and FND led BEEA have jointly undertaken the following tasks;
a. Issued a petition to South African Human Rights Commission, Council of Churches and Independent Police Commission to address matters affecting the freedoms and rights of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri (PSB)
b. Have written Ministries of Home affairs and International cooperation /Foreign Affairs to enter into negotiations with South African Government to review Conditions for Malawians travelling to and staying in RSA
c. We have started the process of planning for a National Conference on Black Economic Empowerment scheduled to take place between 3rd and 4th of September 2018.

We therefore call on all Malawians to be with us in these matters and take appropriate steps and stands for the realization of these goals in the best interest of Malawians.

Allow us to expound on these events.

Issued a petition to South African Human Rights Commission, Council of Churches and Independent Police Commission to address matters affecting the freedoms and rights of Prophet Shepherd Bushiri Concerned with the harassment and infringement of Prophet Shephard Bushiri and negative media coverage which dents the image of the said Malawian, the BEEA issued a statement and engaged with the South African High Commission to Malawi on the same.

As an outcome, it was further required that the process should be extended to rights and accountability bodies in South Africa and the Government in order to get redress.

A team of 4 CSO leaders (two from HRCC and FND each) traveled to South Africa towards the end of May 2018, where the team had interface with Malawians and their associations in RSA, South African Authorities in the Police, Home security, Academia and Human rights sectors, Shephard Bushiri Investment (SBI) team, NGO’s and Media on the state of Malawians living in South Africa and issues surrounding Prophet Shephard Bushiri.

This travel was a continuation of a similar initiative that the BEEA undertook in February 2018. What the team discovered is the fact that the authorities in RSA are aware of the challenges Malawians face while traveling and settling in South Africa but felt majority of the challenges can be addressed if there is goodwill and commitment from the Malawi government to change certain agreed conditions.

As regards to issues of Prophet Shephard Bushiri, it was discovered that the South African authorities have no issues with him as a person and there is cordial relationship between the two parties.

However, just like any Malawian, Bushiri suffers abuse from the personnel working with the state agents especially the Home Affairs, Police and Hawks who often time overstep their mandate and infringe on his rights.

Based on its interface and discoveries in RSA about the rights infringements of Prophet Shephard Bushiri and other Malawians, the only appropriate decision to get responses from the South African Government through the Minister of Safety and Security, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and other accountability bodies, was to issue a complaint in form of a petition for their action on the matters as submitted.

It is our hope that the response will enable us to engage the government further or propel us to mobilise
Malawians in RSA to demand our rights due to their inaction on these issues.

The team further learnt of a number of strategies being developed by Malawi High Commission Office for implementation back in Malawi i.e. awareness raising campaigns at selected communities in 7 districts for Malawians travelling or intending to travel to RSA, South African Government’s commitment to protect all persons legally staying in South Africa through their proper identification and helping them when they raise their concerns with requisite state institutions.

In summary the team concludes the mission as follows;
a. RSA authorities are aware of the challenges Malawians face but will not stop imposing the law unless the Malawi Government acts on the challenging elements of their stay.
b. South African Human Rights commission avoided meeting the team on these rights and referred it to the Commission for Religious rights and Linguistics who further felt our issues could best be handled by SAHRC

c. The centre for Human Rights at University of Pretoria agreed to enter into partnership with Malawi team on human rights training, programmes and litigation matters and that a formal MOU needs to be developed for such collaboration
d. Malawians in RSA are ready and willing to invest in Malawi but would want concessions from the Malawi government over tax matters and their serious protection from the Malawi High Commission office
e. The consulate office for Malawi, understanding the challenges Malawians face, source support from UN to sensitize communities in prone districts to reach out with relevant and appropriate messages for them to be prepared and refrain from using enchanted routes and paying bribes on the way so long they have requisite documents to travel.
f. Shepherd Bushiri team acknowledged the existence of cordial relations between the state and PSB but that the state organs i.e. the Hawks have not been able to prosecute its officials implicated in the rights infringement and smear campaign against Bushiri.

The team thus shared with us Court and Police documents (affidavits) sworn by the fraudsters who sought police clearance and protection after they pulled out of the smear campaign gang and started receiving death threats for revealing the plot.

As a way forward, we still await the official commitment from the South African Government and Governance bodies assuring us that they will deal with any officials acting in their own capacity but using state bodies to harass, persecute and infringe on Prophet Shephard Bushiri and any other Malawians living legally and carrying out legally economic activities within South Africans as provided for in the South African constitution and SADC protocols.

The petition submitted will be followed through to the end and should there be no action taken on either the South African Government or the SAHRC, the movement will mobilize Malawians living in RSA and Malawi to demand the same.

We are convinced that the case study for PSB provides an opportunity for many Malawians to enjoy the freedoms and rights within South Africa as they are living legally in the country and the beneficiary is not only PSB but all Malawians living in RSA
2. Have written Ministries of Home affairs and International cooperation /Foreign Affairs to enter into negotiations with South African Government to review Conditions for Malawians traveling to and staying in RSA.
Based further on the above trip, it became clear that there is good will from the South African
government to ensure that conditions for Malawians in RSA have been improved only that there has been slow response from the Malawian side. Such issues include
a. The requirement for Malawians to show ZAR3000 when travelling to RSA by road if they are to be allowed entry to RSA
b. The 30days allowed stay to Malawians as temporary visitors as opposed to 90Days which other nationals within SADC are given.

The team learnt that this came in place as a gentleman’s agreement between the South African and Malawi Government’s control measure for Malawians not to travel to RSA. Unfortunately no written documentation could be traced to support this agreement.

In our view and learning from the Malawians in RSA, this provision needs to completely be scrapped off as it has been exposing Malawians to fraudsters and corrupt officials as it was known to them that every Malawian traveling by road has ZAR3,000 and more.

It is on this basis that we have written Malawi Government and copied the South African Government demanding a review of this issue at their next Joint Permanent Commission Meeting for a complete stoppage of the same to allow Malawians to travel without any hindrances just as any other citizens within the SADC region who are also protected by the SADC protocol of free movement

3. We have started the process of planning or a National Conference on Black Economic Empowerment scheduled to take place between 3rd and 4th of September 2018.

As the Malawi Government has put in place a draft policy on National Economic Empowerment, which in our view has stagnated due to terminologies of who is a Malawian in the same, we the BEEA have taken upon ourselves to push for the policy and initiative with bias towards the blacks and indigenous Malawians.

We believe that as part of an economic empowerment programme, we ought not to be sorry for ensuring bias towards blacks and indigenous Malawians as they have been marginalized for so long. Currently the economy of Malawi including most resources i.e land, capital and business opportunities are favourable to
non Malawians.

As we further continue consolidating details towards a Black Economic Empowerment agenda for Malawi, more work continues being done and these include but not limited to;
a. Identification and engaging with Malawians locally and internationally who have progressed in Business to support the cause and promote fellow Malawians to level the playing field
b. We have continued lobbying for reforms in areas where abuse and exploitation was rampant i.e.
i. Energy sector where we have applied to join the court case where Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA) has been challenged by Indigenous Business Persons on the new guidelines on filling stations which seems to favour International companies who we ironically suspect to be behind the guidelines
ii. Agriculture sector where we are engaging with the Auction Holdings Commodity Exchange and Government to regulate the legumes market
iii. Promotion and ensuring policy directive and guidelines are in place for the 60/40% awarding businesses in favour of black and indigenous owned enterprises
c. Advocacy and lobbying on Matters that have an impact on our attainment of fundamental
rights i.e. Electricity, Water and Taxation matters.

The response to our interventions has been overwhelming to the extent of wishing the efforts
were commenced earlier. Of course majority of the supporters would like to remain anonymous
until the movement takes appropriate shape and receives the support of Government and
majority of Malawians. We have committed to keep such details as requested.

But as the momentum is gathering, we can’t continue talking to ourselves and the afflicted, we
need to talk to the nation and get the required support. It is in this respect that we have started
preparations for an all stakeholders inclusive conference to take place between 3rd and 4th of
September 2018 at a venue to be arranged where we will discuss and resolve as Malawians on
the subject matter.

The road to the conference includes, but not limited to;

i. One-on-one engagement with potential supporters and guest influential speakers
ii. Creating an #MWBEEA social platform for the agenda
iii. Setting up a conference organising team
iv. Engaging with government on the agenda at high level
v. Conscioutising civil society on the agenda through a forum/meeting
vi. Review of the National economic Empowerment Policy developed by Malawi Government
vii. Developing a Position paper for CSO’s on the agenda
viii. Inviting articles and papers from interested experts and nationals for the conference to
reflect on
ix. Announce and hold the conference to develop and draw out a nationally accepted road
map on the agenda

x. Engage Political aspirants at presidential level to get to commit and endorse the Black
economic empowerment principles as a commitment to pursue the same among other
strategies

CONCLUSION
From the above, the message is clear that as HRCC, FND and partners working for this cause, there is no turning back. We therefore would like to appeal to all Malawians wherever they are to join the campaign and ensure that in the foreseeable future, Malawians take up their rightful position and roles in the society- that of being at the centre of development and growth.

We have taken special interest to input into the Diaspora policy to ensure that the rights and interest of Malawians abroad are guaranteed and incorporated in the instruments as a means of allowing them to contribute to the growth of our beloved nation.

We call upon the media to walk with us and popularize these events and tasks we are undertaking to ensure that there is massive awareness and feedback from the people in whose interest we are rolling out the agenda.

We look forward to further engagement with you and Malawians as we strive to create that enabling environment for ALL Malawians to strive.

Signed by;

Robert Mkwezalamba (Board Chairperson for HRCC)

Bright Kampaundi (Board Chairperson for FND)

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