I would like to start by congratulating you Honourable Cecilia Chazama, M.P., on your appointment as Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development. When I decided to make this change to the Cabinet, your name quickly came into my mind because I have been impressed with your professionalism, commitment and dedication to duty. I regard you as a capable woman who will undoubtedly help me achieve my Government agenda.
Honourable Chazama, M.P. has, over the years, served the party with utmost loyalty and dedication and has been a Member of Parliament for Blantyre North since 2009. Let me also mention that she is the first ever female Minister to be appointed from that part of Blantyre. She is DPP’s Deputy Secretary General and very industrious in Parliament. For instance, she has served as Chairperson of the Women Caucus in Parliament and First Vice President for Pan African Parliament Women Caucus.
A couple of months ago, I established the Ministry of Civic Education and added Culture and Community Development to the portfolio. I did that for a specific reason. No country can achieve meaningful strides in development if its citizenry are passive. Issues of civic education, culture and community development are therefore important to us at our stage of development. More needs to be done to prepare our youth for citizenship and how they can meaningfully participate in civic life. We also need to ensure that Malawians understand and accept their rights and responsibilities if our democracy is to flourish. Above all, Malawians must be empowered to think and conduct themselves in a manner which is consistent with present day realities.
I expect you, Hon. Chazama to ensure that this noble requirement is properly coordinated and executed. I further expect you to perform this important task in collaboration and with support from the widest range of other stakeholders. These include Government establishments, the civil society, development partners and the people of Malawi themselves. I want Malawians to know what it means to be a citizen and live in a democratic country. I consider that it is the duty of everyone to respect the rights of others; adhere to the rule of law; diligently discharge their responsibilities; and be concerned with the common good.
When that happens, you will find that most of the challenges that we are grappling with as a nation will cease. There will, for instance, be no merciless killings of people with albinism; no one taking the law into their own hands the way we see with mob justice; no tax evasion; fewer conflicts; and no abuse of public resources. Most importantly, everyone will play their expected and rightful role in the development of this country. This is what I call active citizenship.
The same is true with culture. We are defined by the food we eat, the mode of our dressing, the type of buildings that we construct, the languages we speak, the religion we practice and even the type of education that we have. In other words, culture gives us a sense of being and plays an important role in the way we live as a nation.
However, there are certain aspects of culture that are good and others that are outdated and are barriers to development. For instance, customs that promote unity and help us to deal with the problems that we face in our societies ought to be encouraged, promoted and sustained. Similarly, those cultural practices that are harmful and slow down development will take us nowhere. The sooner we do away with them, the better for our nation.
Cultural practices such as hlazi, kujura nthowa, kulowa or kupita kufa, bulangete la mfumu must be discontinued if we are going to win the battle against HIV and Aids in this country. I would like to see your Ministry doing something about this as you civic educate Malawians.
Finally, as you are aware, Government is committed to ensure that development starts from the grassroots. According to our Constitution, every person has a right to development in this country. At the moment there are several challenges that are hindering the fulfillment of this inalienable right. These include low community participation, low self-help spirit, lack of sustainability for community development programmes and projects, inadequate funding, lack of transparency and poor accountability, and inadequate coordination among stakeholders.
Last year, we adopted a comprehensive Community Development Policy in order to hasten the process of building active, empowered and sustainable communities that are capable of working on their own agenda to improve their quality of life. I find this to be key to the realization of our developmental goals of poverty eradication and social development. My Government has also increased direct funding to local councils to support community-led development initiatives. Time for top-down planning is long gone because we want to accelerate the country’s socio-economic development. This is again your mandate to ensure that development takes place where it is supposed to take place and in the right manner.
I am saying all this so that you can be motivated to deliver on the mammoth challenge that is before you and the trust placed upon Government by the electorate.
By taking the Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance, you have vowed to take care of the interests of the people of Malawi. You are, therefore, expected to keep the Oaths and walk the talk. You have also accepted the huge responsibilities that lie ahead of you.
As a Minister, you are now at the pinnacle of the government policy making and strategic decision-making machinery. You are constitutionally responsible for contributing towards national development.
I therefore expect you to follow, in full, all Cabinet protocols and procedures. These include the management of your travels and your Ministry’s interaction with donors and international partners. Further, I expect you to respect fellow Ministers, because Cabinet works on the principle of collective responsibility and confidentiality.
The office of Cabinet Minister demands Confidentiality, Hard work, and Integrity. And I expect nothing less than the highest standards.
I would like to urge you to protect public resources and foster transparency and accountability. I appeal to you to desist from engaging in corrupt activities. As I have said many times, corruption is a menace in society and deprives the Government of the limited resources that are available for development programmes. The long arm of the law will take its course where one is found to be in conflict with the law. This is important in order to safeguard Government’s integrity and sustain the trust that Malawians have bestowed upon the Government.
I wish you all the best. God bless you.
And thank you very much for your kind attention.