Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has condemned the Tonse Alliance government for failing to manage the economy, resulting in an unprecedented high cost of living.
In a statement signed by HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence and the entire leadership, the coalition notes that Malawians are currently in deep hunger crisis with over five million people starving, stressing that the economic and social rights of several Malawians is at stake as life has become unbearable and human dignity being lost.
“At the heart of this predicament is President Lazarus Chakwera’s indecisiveness and out of touch leadership approach in managing the affairs of the state.
“Regrettably, if Chakwera doesn’t take a radical course correction, which includes weaning off his excess baggage, 2024 will see half of the population failing to afford a meal per day.
“Equally disheartening is the fact that even opposition, which is supposed to provide checks and balances, has terribly failed its duty. Instead of holding the Chakwera administration accountable for its relentless indecisiveness, the opposition has been wrought with intra-fighting leaving Malawians without an alternative,” reads the statement in the preamble.
Trapence and the HRDC leadership says while it appreciates efforts made by the government to restore the donor trust– as evidenced by the recent approval of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)– it is sad that the Malawi economy remains fragile.
They attribute the fragility of the economy to the government’s continued failure to invest in sectors that would boost our exports and, most importantly, spearhead structural transformation outside subsistence agriculture.
“These fundamental failures, compounded by natural disasters and administrative gaffes, have failed to lift millions of Malawians out of high and stubborn rates of poverty. On the same note, we wish to register our deepest disapproval in the way Tonse Alliance government fails to respect and implement effectively its own public pronounced policies meant to grow the economy and cushion Malawians,” says the coalition.
HRDC further observes that the government has missed its own targets on the Covid-19 Recovery Plan, Tropical Cyclone Freddy Emergency Response Plan and the recent austerity measures the President and the Ministry of Finance announced to cushion Malawians against the 44 percent devaluation.
It says Malawians are yet to feel the impact of these measures because there is hardly a visible implementation and monitoring tool.
“It’s just rhetorical and paper work. Similarly, there has been a lot of talk around mining and recently the government announced the Mining Discounted Projects meant to quantify mining deposits for purposes of monetizing them.
“Against the background of the Kawuniwuni Project 8 years ago which its findings remains a mystery, we are disturbed with government repetitive projects which, despite millions spent, hardly yields Malawians anything,” states the coalition.
On the looming hunger crisis, HRDC has urged President Chakwera and his government to take immediate action, ensuring sufficient maize stocks in ADMARC depots across the country at reasonable prices, especially during the lean period from January to March.
The coalition says Malawians continue to face food insecurity, exacerbated by the 2022 Cyclone Freddy and AIP mismanagement.
It says the looming hunger largely over Malawi, amplified by the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy in 2022 and challenges in the management of the AIP, raising the demand for maize in the market, coupled with skyrocketing prices, paints a grim picture of the current food situation.
“It is imperative for the Tonse government to prioritize immediate and comprehensive measures to address food insecurity. The period from January to March, traditionally the leanest in the country, requires proactive steps to ensure that ADMARC, and other relevant institutions, have sufficient maize reserves accessible to the public at reasonable prices.
“The Tonse government must collaborate with stakeholders to formulate and implement strategies that guarantee food security for all Malawians. Timely and effective interventions are crucial to mitigating the impact of the current crisis and preventing future occurrences,” says HRDC.
The coalition has also criticized the incumbent government for demonstrating determination to stifle civil liberties in the country, which runs counter to the promises made during its ascent to power.
It highlights the suppression of peaceful demonstrations and interference with the media’s rightful role.
“Furthermore, the government’s intrusion into private expression on social media, is unacceptable. This trend must not persist into 2024. In a disconcerting turn of events, the Tonse government has regressed in its commitment to upholding civil liberties, a foundation upon which it gained power. The promises made to respect people’s rights to information, through a free press and the right to peaceful demonstrations, seem to have been discarded.
“The government has allowed in some cases the police to disrupt peaceful demonstrations, leading to the unjust incarceration of some leaders of demonstrations under the pretext of maintaining order. The prolonged legal battles faced by these leaders suggest a deliberate attempt to silence dissenting voices,” says Trapence and the coalition’s leadership.