Malawi at crossroads to either choose to save or destroy it — Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter

By Duncan Mlanjira

In their Pastoral Letter released on Sunday, Catholic Bishops say Malawi is at crossroads to either choose to save or destroy it but the most urgent task before the people is to choose a leader who can rescue it from further deterioration. 

The Letter says the forthcoming fresh presidential election provides people with an opportunity to choose a leader who can save the country from collapsing and who can turn it into a unified, orderly and prosperous nation.

The Bishops

It quotes previous Pastoral Letters (c.f. A Call for a New Era in Malawi, 2018; Strengthening the Vision of our Destiny, 2013; Choosing our Leaders in the Forthcoming Elections, 2003) that said such a leader requires to have the following necessary qualities: 

“Honest, democratic, transformational leadership, visionary, selflessness, servant leadership (Mark 10:44); good stewardship, exemplary, decisiveness, respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, willingness to step down (Luke 17:10); being above tribal/regional/political interests, accountable and God-fearing.

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“Failure to have such a leader will result in our nation becoming more chaotic, divided and with deepening levels of poverty. ‘Wakutsina khutu ndi mnansi’,” says the letter.

“We call upon all duty bearers to ensure that the forthcoming presidential election is free, fair, credible and peaceful.

“We also urge all Malawians to go and vote and vote wisely, keeping in mind the consequences of not voting or not voting wisely.”

Malawi Electoral Commissioners

The Bishops says they are aware of the fact that an election is a process not an event, but they are concerned about the loss of public trust and confidence in the current Malawi Electoral Commissioners; inconsistency in the determination of electoral calendar and vandalism of MEC equipment.

They are also concerned of lack of security in centres where MEC is processing voter transfers and issuing duplicate voter certificates, biased, unprofessional and defamatory reporting by the public broadcaster, MBC. 

President Mutharika and his running mate
Atupele Muluzi

“We are also concerned with the general abuse of freedom of expression by political party zealots on social media by among others, fabricating all forms of falsehood, lies and rumour mongering.

“This calls upon all Malawians to exercise extra vigilance to ensure that the electoral process is transparent. Let there be issue-based campaign. 

Chakwera and his running mate Chilima

“Above all, it calls for a leadership that can provide appropriate direction and supervision.”

The Letter calls upon all Malawians to exercise extra vigilance to ensure that the electoral process is transparent; and that there be issue-based campaign and above all, calls for a leadership that can provide appropriate direction and supervision.

Coronavirus alert

“Let us continue to pray and seek God’s guidance for the success of this election. With the same conviction with which we have made this Further Call to a New Era in Malawi, we, your leaders in the faith, place this exhortation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the patronage of Mary: ‘I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).”

The Letter points out some things that wrong in the society that need to be put right such as the rising cases of tribalism, saying “Malawi is now departing from the unifying spirit of our forefathers and going towards fragmentation and tribalism”. 

Political rally

“This is shown by tribal political talk, nepotism, forms of favouring one’s own area and one’s own region as well as the practice whereby politicians seek to gain votes by whipping up the anger of voters against other tribes and regions. 

“This is a very dangerous road we are taking as a nation and we appeal to all citizens to avoid these evils of tribalism and regionalism. We are one human family (c.f. Living our Faith, 1992). ‘Strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3).”

Violent demonstrations

The Bishops note with shock and deep sadness the increased acts of political violence as stated in the recent statements of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), both issued on 8th May 2020. 

“We condemn these acts of violence in the strongest terms possible. Anyone who subscribes to this form of violence is not consistent with the type of a leader we have described above and must not be voted into power.”

Demonstrations against corruption

The faith leaders are also deeply concerned with rising levels of impunity in some sections of our society such as the killings of people with albinism, the so-called mob justice and the killing of elderly persons suspected of being witches as utterly repulsive. 

“We call for a speedy conclusion of these cases and a complete stop to these barbaric acts. Just as we said before, there should be non-selective justice when handling these cases (c.f. Mercy of God as a path of Hope, 2016). 

Demonstrations against Ansah

“On these matters, the Word of God admonishes us: “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). 

“Considering these killings, we need a leader who will act firmly and decisively otherwise we will end up with bad and uncaring leadership as described by the Prophet Ezekiel: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? … So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts’ (Ezekiel 34:2, 5).”

Most Reverend Thomas Msusa, President

The Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi that are signatories to the Pastoral Letter are Most Reverend Thomas Msusa (President and Archbishop of Blantyre); Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka (Vice-President and Bishop of Karonga); Most Reverend Tarsizio Ziyaye (Archbishop of Lilongwe); Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa (Bishop of Chikwawa).

The others are Right Reverend Montfort Stima (Bishop of Mangochi); Right Reverend George Tambala (Bishop of Zomba); Right Reverend John Ryan (Bishop of Mzuzu) and Very Reverend John Chithonje (Diocesan Administrator of Dedza).