More than most academic books, Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi needs to connect with the public life of the country. Hence, we have held launch events in Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu and Lilongwe and it has been gratifying to see the ideas of the book being debated and assessed.
The final leg of the book tour took us to Lilongwe where we found a neutral and very hospitable space at the German development agency GiZ. This provided a very different environment from our accustomed University settings and brought together a rich mix of Government officials, non-governmental activists and cultural leaders.
Without any planning on our side, on the very day of the launch the Catholic Bishops released a hard-hitting statement titled, “A Call to Hearken to the Cry of Poor Malawians.” This added urgency and topicality to the publication of our book.
The Bishops wrote that, “The cry of the poor gets louder and louder in Malawi each day. This cry is caused by, among other things, the worsening general inflation with biting food price increases, rising youth unemployment, rising school fees, inadequate medical services, the fuel crisis driving up transport costs, exploitation by unscrupulous traders and business people, foreign exchange shortages, and lack of effective consumer protection.”
While recognising that these problems are to a great extent caused by events that are beyond Malawi’s control, the Bishops were robust in calling the Government to account: “To truly respond to the Cry of the Poor requires bold and viable public policy actions. Such public policy actions are being prevented and undermined by the vice of corruption, defective service delivery systems, inconsistent government austerity measures, bleak picture of the oncoming crop growing season, and the Tonse Alliance retrogressive way of governing.”
Though the text of our book was completed in 2020 and therefore does not directly address the current situation, many of its themes reflect perennial dysfunctions in Malawi’s governance. Its analysis therefore has ongoing relevance, and we are heartened by the kind of eager reception of the book that we experienced in Lilongwe. We hope it can be a small contribution to the effort to reach the day when Malawians are not disappointed by the way in which they are being governed.