Donors have cautioned political parties and Members of Parliament against the impeachment of President Bingu Mutharika, fearing the development may bring disaster for the nation.
The donors also caution against a new government that would not enjoy much international support if the impeachment succeeds.
Government and civil society have hailed the donors’ concern but political parties remain divided over the issue.
In an open letter copied to heads of all political parties in the country, the donors question the speed at which the impeachment motion is being debated —at the expense of more pertinent issues such as the current hunger crisis, poverty and development.
The letter was signed by British High Commissioner David Pearey, Head of Delegation of the European Union Alessandro Mariani, Head of DFID Malawi Roger Wilson, South African High Commissioner Ntshadi Tsheole, ambassadors for the United States of America Alan Eastham, Norway’s Gunnar Foreland, Germany’s Albert Gisy and Charge d’Affaires of the French Embassy Serge Lavroff.
“The government which would be ushered in if the impeachment succeeds would be less likely to enjoy support of the international community and could mar the image of the country abroad because it would have risen to power through hasty and a process that is not transparent or constitutional enough,” reads the letter obtained by The Nation.
The letters further says the donors would not recognise a proposed National Governing Council and might find it difficult to work with such a body.
“The impeachment might place at risk Malawi’s much prized stability and given the uncertain and transitory nature of the proposed National Governing Council, we cannot be certain of being able to have a satisfactory relationship with such a body,” reads the letter.
While avoiding comments on the laid down grounds of impeachment as outlined in the indictment document, the donors say it is absurd that the talk about impeachment comes at a time when the government has managed to restore donor confidence and fiscal discipline, after a long period of a shrunken economy and donor drought.
The donors further say the result of the impeachment would also be to hold an unbudgeted for election in the current financial year which is going to be a very costly exercise for the government.
“This letter should not be read as an uncritical endorsement of all the actions of the current government nor an attempt to silence the legitimate functions of Parliament. It is the job of Parliament to hold the Executive to account.
“We have further urged all those involved to redouble their anti-corruption efforts and ensure they are even-handed. In all cases suspicion of corruption should be thoroughly investigated before reaching judgement,” says the letter.
Information Minister Patricia Kaliati said: “The opposition should be in a better position to comment as they are the ones for the impeachment but we [government] do appreciate the move by the donors because we are the ones to be impeached and it shows they are very much concerned with the national security of this country as well as the economy.”
Institute for Policy Interaction Rafiq Hajat said the concerns raised by the donors are genuine as leaders are busy politicking when millions of people are at the brink of dying from hunger. He further claimed the grounds of the impeachment are not adequate.
Malawi Economic Justice Network Acting Executive Director Mabvuto Bamusi said his organisation is not surprised with the donors’ reaction.
“The donors’ worry should be translated into an economic worry because the Malawi budget is expecting pledges from the same donors and this might adversely affect the pledges as such by the end of the financial year we will have low levels of donor support simply because of political bickering,” said Bamusi.
He added that once donors pull out, government will be forced to borrow domestically to fill the deficit thereby piling up the high domestic debt.
People’s Progressive Movement last week in Lilongwe disassociated itself from the agitators of impeachment, saying the process, if allowed to proceed, would only worsen the country’s fragile economy.
The party’s vice president Mark Katsonga also wrote to Speaker of Parliament telling him that people have not been adequately consulted on the process and called for a constitutional conference to decide on the matter.
But Alliance for Democracy spokesperson Norman Nyirenda yesterday trashed calls to stop the impeachment, saying it is high time the donors learnt to let Malawians decided their own destiny. He said Malawians should not tolerate abuses of office for the sake of donor aid.
But in their letter, the envoys conceded as follows: “Members of the diplomatic community do not in general comment on internal political matters. But in view of the serious nature of the proposals being discussed in the current session of Parliament, their impact on Malawi’s relations with the international community and our own stake in Malawi’s future, we feel compelled to make our views known to those who can influence events.”
But Nyirenda insisted that impeachment of the President would solve the country’s political problems and said the donors should call for a referendum if they have the interest of the country at heart rather than rallying behind a leader who has lost his mandate to rule.
UDF officials—strong advocates of the impeachment process—could not be reached for comment while MCP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said his boss, John Tembo, would be the proper person to comment on the issue. Tembo’s phone went unanswered.
"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"
Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)