The Catholic Church in Malawi has accused the government of being weak on corruption in a rare letter of criticism released Sunday in churches across the nation. Authorities say they have received the letter and would investigate the issues raised.
The letter, written by local bishops, highlights several areas where the administration of President Lazarus Chakwera has allegedly failed to improve. Among those is the fight against corruption, which the church says the government has failed big time.
It says the current administration is led by weak and indecisive leaders who are failing to utilize their powers to govern the country.
Father Henry Saindi is the secretary-general of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi — an assembly of Catholic bishops in the country.
“We just had revelations recently about people who are politically connected involved in the plunder of public resources with the support of some civil servants,” he said.
The bishops said in the letter that it is concerning that a president who campaigned against corruption continues to keep his ministers and aides involved in the practice.
The letter did not cite specific examples. But in January, President Chakwera declined to fire a cabinet minister, Kezzie Msukwa, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
The bishops issued the letter as the church commemorates 30 years since it issued another pastoral letter which helped Malawi change from a one-party system of government to a multi-party system of government.
George Phiri, a political analyst based in Mzuzu, says the pastoral letter should be a wake-up call for the government.
“Because Malawians have lost trust in Tonse Alliance government since they have even failed to accomplish or implement promises which they made to Malawians. It’s very clear that now they have to learn from this pastoral letter and begin addressing those issues critically,” he said.
Other issues the pastoral letter highlighted are the government’s failure to stop plunder of public resources by foreign nationals in partnership with corrupt politicians and civil servants.
The Church also says it is concerned with interference by the president’s office and cabinet in the operation of state-run companies and organizations.
Malawi’s government spokesperson Gospel Kazako told the state-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation that the government will consider issues the Catholic Church has raised.
“Most of the things that have been highlighted in the pastoral letter are things that certainly will attract our attention. We respect the Catholic Church," he said. "There are few things that we have already done, there are few things that also are on the drawing board. I think what is required is just to make sure that we get in touch with them and then be able to engage, so that we can brief them on where we are on certain things”
But Phiri, also a former political science lecturer at University of Livingstonia, says the government should not pretend that things have ever been better.
“Because it’s like the government has been addressing these issues. The government has not been addressing these issues raised by a pastoral letter. Otherwise the church would not have raised these issues if the government had already started delivering according to the pastoral letter,” he said.
The Catholic Church also said there is a need for a multi-sector approach to address the issues raised in the letter, and not rely on the government alone.