Chakwera Tells Critics: Feel Free

Weekes after facing criticism from the clergy, President Lazarus Chakwera has said his administration is open to criticism and he will continue acting on feedback from religious leaders.

The President said this on Sunday when he attended Sunday Service at the headquarters of Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in Lilongwe.

Chakwera: Feel free to offer criticism
He said Malawi is a democratic country where people have freedom of speech as well as association, as such everyone should feel free to offer criticism and provide his leadership guidance where necessary.

Chakwera said: “As government, we will always give room to religious leadership to help in the running of government affairs. That is why we will not let anyone instil fear in religious leaders when they speak on issues of national concern.

“We want them to be free and tell us where we are doing well and bad, that is the only way we can progress as a nation and achieve Malawi Agenda 2063.”

His visit to the Mission came barely two weeks after the synod issued a pastoral letter on April 24 2022 accusing his administration of failing to manage the cost of living, unfulfilled campaign promises and failure to address corruption and nepotism.

The church also said it was dismayed that recruitment in the public service is based on personal connections with the ruling elite and that public procurement favoured foreign as well as local bidders with political connections.

Reads the pastoral letter in part: “There is failure to account for and recover misappropriated public funds such as K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds, and the 41st Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit funds. We believe that this does not reflect Malawi wokomera Tonse [creating a Malawi that will give equal opportunities to all].

“We as Christians and patriotic citizens must stand up and pray for justice and equitable distribution of national wealth.”

In what appeared to be a subtle response to the pastoral letter, the President said his administration will continue listening to and acting on critics from religious leaders as one way of improving things in the country.

He also acknowledged the growing corruption perception in the country which he said needed collective effort to address.

Chakwera said Malawi’s economy continues to face a lot of challenges including accumulation of debts, impact of climate change and Covid-19 pandemic.

“But let me assure Malawians of the government’s efforts to address some of these challenges,” he said.

Chakwera, a former Malawi Assemblies of God president who quit the pulpit to join frontline politics in 2013, said as long as he is the country’s President, he will guarantee people’s freedom of worship.

He said religion has an enormous role to play in enhancing the county’s development including providing checks and balances.

In his remarks on Sunday, CCAP Nkhoma Synod moderator the Reverend Phillip Kambulire said the synod’s ultimate goal is for Malawi, as a nation, to progress.

He said: “We need to have an ultimate goal as a nation, and that is to progress. That is why as a church we will continue to put the country’s leadership in God’s hands.

“As a church, we are not only here to pray for the country but we are also mandated to work hand-in-hand with the government in developmental areas of education, health, among others. The synod will continue to reach out to as many people as we can and help in building a better Malawi.”

According to Kambulire, Chakwera is the fourth president to attend prayers with the congregation at Nkhoma Mission since the country attained independence in 1964. The others are founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika.

The Nkhoma Synod pastoral letter came after the Catholic bishops’ slow pace in making critical decisions as well as lukewarm fight against graft, among others. Previously, the bishops through their Episcopal Conference of Malawi, the Public Affairs Committee, Malawi Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Defenders Coalition also raised governance concerns.

The groups demanded action from the leadership to address economic challenges affecting Malawians.“`

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