The Sad story of Malawi. The full pastoral letter from the Catholic Bishops

The Catholics Bishops have done it again. A Pastoral letter that highlights a number of governance issues was released today. We have the full letter

Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of the
Episcopal Conference of Malawi
Second Sunday of Lent, 25th February, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We greet you all in the name of Jesus Christ, who is our Lord
and Saviour. During this Lenten Season, we are asked to
examine our lives in the light of the Good News of Jesus, in the
light of His Word in the Bible and in the light of the example He
gave us when He lived among us over two thousand years ago.
On Ash Wednesday, we received ashes with the words: ‘Repent
and believe the Gospel.’ These words of Jesus introduce the
period of Lent when we enter once more into the saving
mysteries of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection.

We also take this time of Lent to examine where we, as a
country, are in Malawi. During this year, we will clock four years
of the ‘Tonse Alliance’ Government. If Malawians ask
AGO?’, the resounding answer for the vast majority of
Malawians is an emphatic ‘NO’. It is clear that the story that
the Tonse Alliance Government told us before being elected into
government is not being realised. Yes, the nation has suffered
from crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the disaster
caused by cyclone Freddy, droughts, floods, etc. These crises
have shaken systems, taken lives, uprooted whole villages andwiped out livelihoods. However, at the same time, we have
witnessed a glaring failure of leadership. Leaders have resorted
to being salesmen of words, with no serious attempt at keeping
any promises they made to the people. In fact, rather than
fulfilling any promises, they are making new ones with total
disregard for accountability. Is it all just words, words, empty
words? Many empty words have been uttered on the following

1. Fruitless Engagements with the State President

Fellow Malawians, mindful of our prophetic role to be the voice
of the voiceless, we have privately engaged the State President
several times. Still, we fail to see any positive change in the
general governance of our dear Malawi or any improvement in
the plight of our poor brothers and sisters across the country.
We have repeatedly warned the Government leadership that if
poor governance continued, the state of our nation would
become far worse than it was four years ago. Unfortunately,
our prediction has come true. While our efforts to engage the
Government leadership have been largely unsuccessful, as
Christians we keep on trying hoping for change at some stage.
With the hope of hastening such change we hereby amplify the
cry of the poor and suffering Malawians through a different

2. Corruption

Corruption is still rampant. From the top down, people with high
connections are unjustly turning into multimillionaires overnight
to the detriment of the majority of people who are being kept in grinding poverty. Sadly, the corruption has seeped into all
areas of life in Malawi. This is the reality we are in now. Every
effort has been made to systematically hollow out and weaken
oversight institutions, almost all of which have now been
rendered useless. The fight against corruption has been allowed
to collapse. Shame on those who have allowed this to happen!
What remains is a game of make-believe, the mere appearance
of fighting corruption. People are not fooled by this. As
followers of Jesus Christ, we live in hope. In this context of
Christian hope, we salute the heroic few, like the Malawi Law
Society and others who firmly believe that the sin of corruption
is not the way to go and who are still at the forefront of the
fight against corruption. They have not lost hope that true
justice for all is possible under proper leadership.

The Catholic Bishops

3. Under the Watch of the Tonse Government

What is happening to our leadership? Under their watch and
too often with their collusion, we note the following:
a. Speeches about curtailing expenditure on leadership are
just empty words. In reality nothing changes at all.
Continuous excuses for travel and accumulating
allowances for large entourages which drain public funds,
have become the norm.
b. There is a perception that suppliers under investigation for
corruption are being favoured with millions of dollars in
payments at a time when the nation is suffering due to a
shortage of forex.

c. Dubious deals with suspect and shady suppliers are the
order of the day. There appears to be no prioritising the
needs of the majority who struggle to survive day by day.
The cry of the poor is drowned out by the prevailing
mis-procurement in ministries, departments and agencies
through the use of dubious middlemen, some of whom are
linked directly to the President’s Advisors at the State House.
d. We have seen the issuance of sovereign guarantees to
dubious individuals with nothing to show for the welfare
of the country, thus putting the country at risk of an even
further debt burden.
e. We have seen a journalist go into hiding for merely telling
the nation the truth about the military’s transactions with
an individual who is under investigation for corruption. Is
it an attempt at taking us back to the one-party state style
of dictatorship?
f. We are disturbed by the lingering rumour that there are
plans to hurriedly change the 50%+1 electoral system.
Pursuing this would be as grave a mistake as attempting to
change our constitution to allow a third term. If it is indeed
being considered, the wise thing to do is to take it off the
table right away, as it would cause great discontent among
the public.
g. Nepotism is also rife. Appointment of senior officers in
government appears to favour one tribe or region over the
others. All Malawians are equal. During the campaign, we
were told repeatedly that nepotism would be history, yet
now what we see is different from what was promised

h. Confusion surrounds the Public Service Reform Report.
There is a general feeling that the Report has very beneficial
recommendations for citizens of the country, but for
unknown reasons, it is kept a secret.
i. The Tonse Alliance seems not to care at all about any of the
promises it made to the people.
j. The Affordable Inputs Programme has become a joke,
targeting only a handful of people. Where is the fertiliser
which is to be bought for MK4,995 per bag? As a result,
the nation faces food insecurity.
k. The purchasing power of the Kwacha has been greatly
reduced, yet incomes have not kept pace with the
l. The suffering in the villages has worsened. Some families
face starvation, as they could not afford the fertilizer that
was on the market and further problems due to erratic
m. Parents/guardians cannot afford school/college fees for
their children/wards and many students/pupils are forced
out of all levels of education. As well as an injustice to those
immediately affected, this will have negative repercussions
for our country going forward.
n. Our roads continue to deteriorate rapidly. For instance,
main routes like the M1 and the M5 roads are an
embarrassment to our nation.

4. Judiciary

Even the Judiciary appears to have abandoned its integrity and
has embroiled itself in corruption and partisanship. The price
of judges and magistrates is no longer taboo; it’s an open secret
that some lawyers thrive by bribing judges and magistrates to
defeat the ends of justice. Some judges and magistrates are
accountable to no one. They take years to hear a case, yet the
Judiciary does nothing to discipline them. Instead, they are
rewarded with promotion. We believe that the Ministry of
Justice is frustrating efforts by the Malawi Law Society to put
in place a law that regulates the judges. This law deserves our
support because a solid legal system is the backbone of any
country that wants to eliminate corruption.

5. Victimization of Elderly People on Accusations of Practicing Witchcraft

Some elderly people in Malawi live in fear that their lives are in
danger. Many older men and women face the reality of being
victims of witchcraft-based violence and other grave human
rights violations and abuses. In the year 2023 alone, 78 elderly
persons were tortured and 25 were killed for being accused of
practicing witchcraft. A recent (27th December 2023) case of
assault and harassment was of Christina Chiwoko, aged 66 from
Mwanza Village, Traditional Authority Chiwere in Dowa District.
Christina was buried up to the neck while being interrogated
about alleged witchcraft activities. While cases of victimisation
of older women and men are on the rise, there are no noticeable
concrete steps by the Government to address and remedy
this critical human rights problem. One avenue to ensure the provision of effective justice to elderly persons is to strengthen
the legal framework. The Government has been coy on the tabling
of the Elderly Persons Bill in Parliament to pass it into law. With
the enactment of the Elderly Persons Law, it is envisioned that
elderly men and women will be protected through enhancing their
security and guaranteeing their access to justice.

6. Respect and Care for Creation

It is now universal knowledge that planet Earth is under grave
threat from climate change brought on by our failure to respect
and care for the environment. If we continue as we are, future
generations will be deprived of what they need to live on.
Malawi, too, must honour the international agreements on
climate and environment that she has signed up to. We call on
the Government to renew its efforts to:
a. manage and preserve our forests;
b. continue to encourage the planting of trees;
c. provide and promote alternatives to charcoal;
d. promote solar and other clean energy sources;
e. enforce sustainable ways of using natural resources;
f. promote sustainable farming methods, for example,
climate-smart agriculture, etc.

7. Malawi Arriving at ‘Bagamoyo’ instead of the
‘Promised Land’

Fellow Malawians, we feel very sorry to say that because of all
the difficulties and failures listed above, most Malawians have
lost hope in the Tonse Government and its leadership. In spite of
all the excitement that the Tonse Government would lead Malawians to the promised land, only four years later, to the
disappointment of all except the few well-connected people,
Malawi has ended up at Bagamoyo – a city on the east coast of
Tanzania, which when a slave arrived there he or she lost all hope
of being free again. Instead of reaching the promised land of
prosperity we are bogged down in the same land we wanted to
leave, namely the land of hunger, disease, poverty, corruption
and a like. Hence, most Malawians, except the very few well-
connected ones, feel strongly that there is nothing else they can
do to turn around the country or improve the deteriorating living
conditions. They fail to see anybody in the current Government
who cares about them or who is able to improve their situation.
They wonder how this Government would answer God’s question
to Cain: “Where is your brother Abel?” Would they answer like
Cain? “I don’t know. Am I supposed to take care of my brother?”
(Genesis 4:9).

8. Intraparty Squabbling

We watch with dismay the continuous squabbles that are being
manifested in the political parties. What is seen are continuous
fights that either end in circles of expulsions of members from
parties or court injunctions and cases. In our view, these are
actions that are driving democracy backwards and have the
potential to throw this country into chaos and further
dehumanizing poverty. Are these individuals or groupings fighting
for an opportunity to serve the interest of Malawians or to forge
opportunities to take up advantageous positions and satisfy their
own interests? Malawians are crying out for political parties that
put the interests of the nation before their own interests.

9. The Evil of Religious Intolerance and Violence
Recently, we have witnessed increased incidents of religious
based physical and verbal attacks in some parts of our peace-
loving country. Regardless of what triggered the said forms of
violence and attacks, we condemn such attacks in the strongest
terms possible. Such barbaric behaviour has no place in a
democratic and God fearing country which is based on the rule
of law, love and a constitution which guarantees freedom of
religion for all people in this country.
We call on all citizens to respect the religious beliefs of others
and to allow them to practice their faith in freedom. We call
upon law enforcements agents to act decisively wherever such
evil and criminal acts occur without fear of favour. We call upon
all religious leaders, Christian or not, to assist their fellow
believers to translate their religious beliefs to love, peace, unity
and justice as anything contrary to these values comes from
the evil one, namely Satan.

10. Roadmap Towards 2025 Elections

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans
to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and
a future”, (Jeremiah 29:11). When these words were spoken,
Israel was in exile for their disobedience. A false prophet had
told Israel that God would deliver them from Babylon in two
years’ time, and Jeremiah had come to set the record straight.
He delivers the heartbreaking news that Israel will spend the
next 70 years in Babylon. This is not the news that they wanted
to hear. This would mean that an entire generation would die
in exile. But God wants them to know that He still has a plan for the wayward nation. As time drags on, they to need to hold
onto the belief that God has not abandoned them. This hope
will help them maintain their stamina in the decades to come.
With all the ills and challenges listed above and many more, we
might be tempted to believe that we are a doomed nation. This
is not true. God does not forsake His children. We too, as time
drags on, need to hold onto the belief that God has not
abandoned us. Our faith in the merciful God should help us
maintain our stamina in the decades to come as we limp
towards prosperity.
God requires our cooperation in order to assist us get out the
mess we are in. One way of cooperating with Him is to actively
and wisely participate in forthcoming elections. As much as our
leaders are responsible for the many problems we face as a
country, we the citizens, the voters, are also responsible for
these problems by choosing leaders who are not able to govern
the country properly. Hence, as we approach the 2025
elections, we want to remind everyone that:
a. Not being interested in politics translates to not being
concerned about your quality of life, well-being, job,
freedom and future.
b. Politics needs sound foundations, legitimacy and an ethical
framework to be humane and useful.
c. It is important that everyone exercises their right to vote
so that those elected are truly representatives of the
d. It is essential that young people exercise their right to vote
as the outcome of the elections will determine their future

May the Lenten call to conversion and our celebration of the
Resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter mark the beginning of a
new dawn for all Malawians. May St. Joseph, the foster father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, watch over our country and obtain
from God a spirit of integrity, justice, patriotism, love and peace
in Malawi.
We place these reflections under the guidance of the Holy Spirit
and the patronage of Mary, Queen of Malawi and of Africa.
O God bless our land of Malawi,
Keep it a land of peace.
Put down each and every enemy,
Hunger, disease, envy.
Join together all our hearts as one,
That we be free from fear.
Bless our leader, each and every one,
And Mother Malawi.
Our own Malawi, this land so fair,
Fertile and brave and free.
With its lakes, refreshing mountain air,
How greatly blest are we.
Hills and valleys, soil so rich and rare,
Give us a bounty free.
Wood and forest, plains so broad and fair,
All-beauteous Malawi.
Freedom ever, let us all unite
To build up Malawi.
With our love, our zeal and loyalty,

Bringing our best to her.
In time of war, or in time of peace,
One purpose and one goal.
Men and women serving selflessly
In building Malawi.


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