BLANTYRE--Anglican Bishop James Tengatenga has bashed the "Big Bwana" syndrome attitude, saying it’s not supposed to be "entertained again."
"We gather here today to take a resolve to maintain the original vision of consolidating democracy, and to rekindle the original motivation to reclaim the future we have always wished to see," Tengatenga said in his main key address when he opened an all-inclusive conference at Limbe Catholic Cathedral Hall convened by rights group Public Affairs Committee (PAC).
He didn’t link his remarks against glorifying the leadership to anyone but it's no longer a secret that Pres Bingu wa Mutharika has become intolerant to criticism and often issues threats to his critics. Rabid ruling party supporters are known for going on state radio to castigate perceived Mutharika enemies. Last year, properties of activists were petro-bombed by unknown attackers and in one case Presidential Spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba suggested that one the victims had a hand in the attacks.
Last month, former attorney general and human rights activist Ralph Kasambara was arrested after his security team apprehended three men he said had confessed being sent by the ruling party to petro-bomb his offices. The government accused Kasambara of torturing the trio and initially refused to obey a court order releasing him. The arrest followed Kasambara’s call for the impeachment of Mutharika for failing to resolve the ongoing judicial strike.
Bishop Tengatenga on Wednesday said intimidation and unwarranted arrests were supposed to be consigned to the past, adding that Malawians have the right to assess the progress of "any regime at any particular time--for all leaders rule based on trust bestowed upon them by the Malawian society."
He said PAC has the "mandate to operate on issues of political governance and economic affairs."
Quoting Section 12 (111) of the Malawi constitution, Tengatenga said "the authority to exercise power of the state is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent government and informed democratic choices.”
He said the provision was "critical for any government that rules our country in the new dispensation."
This, the bishop said, "gives mandate to any organisation or individual to criticise authorities or to withdraw the authority to govern."
Tengatenga said a positive start in the first tem of the Mutharika administration won the trust of Malawians who voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Progressive Party in 2009 but "2010 saw a different political tide....laws that passed in parliament and policies were without adequate consultations."
In 2011, he said "we saw poor relations on the international scene compounded by the expulsion of the British high commissioner. Most commentators made it clear that Malawi had lost its direction."
He said Malawians can observe now that "things have fallen apart economically and politically."
The cleric said this was why PAC had identified the theme: "Time to reclaim our destiny--seeking redress to our political and economic challenges."
He said the three topics of political, economic and constitutional gaps and opportunities in the current political situation will provide the basis for the debate and outcomes of the conference.
Clarifying the word "reclaim", he said it doesn’t mean remove. "The word shouldn’t imply any intention to stage a coup on the current regime; what we mean is that our vision for the future of this country needs to be redirected."
He said PAC had a history of organising such conferences, starting from 2002, with a theme Choosing Our Destiny and yet there were no problems and PAC proceeded without any frustrations.
He said the conference was "not about some individuals taking advantage to start war as other quarters have been propagating. This is a peaceful conference.PAC believes in spiritual, intellectual and practical engagement rather than physical might."
The bishop’s call: "Let us focus on hard issues that can turn around our country."
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment