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Marching for something on December 13th

By Thoko Kaime

In support of a decision by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to force the government to enact a raft of electoral and local government reforms, our Catholic bishops drafted a pastoral letter that was read in various parishes over the last weekend.

The letter calls on all good Catholics to stage a demonstration on 13 December over the apparent foot-dragging by government to pass into law a myriad of recommendations by the Malawi Law Commission.

I will not bore you with the detail of the Commission’s proposals, suffice it to say that the matters are so important that my Vice President, Saulos Chilima, felt compelled to read out the instruction from the bishops to go out and peaceably demonstrate.

I know I am making mischief here, but the Vice President did read a letter that clearly spells out dissatisfaction with the manner in which the administration that he serves has handled important legal reforms.

Although I do not agree with some of proposals from the Law Commission and the basis for the choices put forward, I think it is entirely right that citizens do demand that the government accounts for the failure to take any steps to enact the recommendations made by our Law Commission. The Commission is one of the pillars of this democracy and its mandate is intended to make our laws and institutions more effective and more accountable to the people.

The framers of our Constitution correctly realised that our basic laws would need continuous reform as we seek that ever more accountable democracy. Consequently, the idea that recommendations from the Law Commission can be ignored or pushed aside, without consequence should be challenged. So whether or not you agree with the recommendations by the Law Commission, (or indeed whether or not you have read the proposals), the fact is that an accountable government should never ignore the recommendations of the Law Commission and should faithfully present those to our representatives so that they can debate and where appropriate adopt the proposed measures.

If you are Catholic, well, the bishops have spoken. Grab your rosary on 13 December and join a march to remind our political elite that we expect them to carry out their constitutional mandate at all times, not just when it is convenient for them. If you are not Catholic, join your brothers and sisters on this march and insist that government tables these bills before our elected representatives so that they may discuss them, and if possible, adopt appropriate changes.

If you are not impressed by the importance of electoral and local government reform or have not yet formed an opinion on whether the recommendations made are suitable or not, well there is a raft of other reasons for which you should join your brothers and sisters on 13 December.

For example, the government is yet to address the issue of abuse of resources from parastatal organisations, perhaps in the hope that Malawians will soon forget. We should not allow a ruling party to perpetuate this abusive behaviour, and all those who have been complicit in this, must be made accountable.

If this issue makes you angry; then grab a banner or design a placard and join your brothers and sisters on 13 December.

If you are incensed that some government bigshot would spend 64 million Kwacha on furniture and bypass normal procurement procedures whilst our hospitals cannot afford medicines, then design a placard and join your brothers and sisters on 13 December.

If you are annoyed by never ending power cuts and the platitudes from government relating to investment in the energy sector and photo-op board meetings that deliver no results, then grab a banner or design a placard and join your brothers and sisters on 13 December.

If you are concerned by the lack of a grand vision for key sectors of our lives including the economy, education, health and others, then grab your neighbour, design a placard together and join your brothers and sisters on 13 December.

If you are livid about the rates of maternal mortality, perennial food shortages, dodgy procurement deals and an almost permanent lack of medicines in the hospitals; then do not sit at home on 13 December.

Let us remind our political elite who owns this place.

Do something on 13 December. March for something. March for a more accountable democracy.

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