In figures of speech, one is said to “act the goat” when they behave comically or playfully, often to amuse others. The expression has landed on the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a body of individuals from different religious outfits pursuing their interest in governance of the country.
The Forum for Democracy and Rights Defenders (FDRD) has objected to a proposal by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) for the President to fire the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC), Coleen Zamba. PAC made the recommendation to President Lazarus Chakwera on Tuesday at the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe where the President hosted the quasi-religious body.
Chairperson of FDRD, Sheikh Shaibu Ajassie, told journalists in Blantyre yesterday that instead, there is a need to review laws that give more powers to SPC to be found in various boards of parastatals, unlike pushing for her dismissal.
The organization feels it is not fair and encroachment of constitutional duties conferred on the President for PAC to continue asking for dismissal of office bearers. PAC previously urged Presdent Chakwera to fire the immediate past SPC, Zangazanga Chikhosi, who became replaced by Zamba.
PAC was founded in 1992, inspired by events that occurred about the same year some thirty-one (31) years ago. On 18th March, 1992, the Catholic Bishops in Malawi read, in their churches across the country, a letter that was criticizing the then one party regime.
The letter which was titled “Living Our Faith” addressed a variety of governance issues including the Church and Society; aspiration to greater equality and unity; right to an adequate education; adequate health services for all; participation of all in public life; freedom of expression and association; and workable system of justice for all, among others.
Since then, there have been imitation of the initiative by both Catholic Bishops and leaders of other faith institutions, none of which has come closer to what “Living Our Faith’ was. PAC which was founded by the religious community and other pressure groups in Malaŵi to enter into a dialogue with Kamuzu Banda’s Presidential Committee on Dialogue in the transition period from the one-party to the multiparty system of government has been a convenient tool for governance participation by the religious community.
While PAC has been operating throughout the multiparty period, the most enabling environment has been created by the incumbent President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, who has, since his ascendancy to the presidency in 2020, granted not less than six audiences with PAC. There is a theory that this generosity by the incumbent president is owed to the fact that he is also coming from the religious community himself since he is an ordained reverend of the Malawi Assemblies of God church.
Political and democracy commentators have equally criticized PAC’s apparent encroachment on duties cut out for the President: “PAC is utilizing the concept of democracy to claim its participatory space in the governance affairs of the country. The same concept of democracy demands constitutionalism in which the constitution, as the supreme law, specifies who exercises what power under what conditions. It is usurpation of power or an attempt to exercise unavailable power for PAC to dictate the President around”, said Chipiliro Nkhambule, a Mzuzu-based political commentator adding that “I hope the President will stop extending such generous generosity to them”.