Malawi-Scotland Governance Webinar Series

‘New Directions for Governance in Malawi’

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The Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) and our sister network in Malawi, the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP), are delighted to announce a major new collaboration as part of our ‘Years of Governance Strengthening’ campaign: the sponsorship of a new 400+ page, peer reviewed publication on governance in Malawi and an accompanying eight-part high-level webinars series exploring governance strengthening.

‘Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi’, edited by Kenneth R. Ross, Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, will be commercially available in Malawi later this year, supported by the SMP. Read the book’s table of contents here. Written by 25 leading academics in Malawi, this is arguably the most comprehensive, insightful and up to date publication on this topic.

Between October 2021 and May 2022, the SMP and MaSP are co-hosting eight, high-profile, digital webinars exploring governance strengthening in Malawi. Chaired by Assoc Prof Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, each webinar will feature one or more leading Malawian academic and governance expert, presenting their chapter(s) in this forthcoming publication. Each webinar will include a response from a leading figure in Scotland with expertise in this area, and each will include significant time for open debate and discussion, chaired by Prof Chiweza or her co-editors.

Scottish respondents include former First Ministers of Scotland Lord Jack McConnell and Lord Jim Wallace.

The new President of Malawi (and Hon Co-Patron of the SMP) addressed our 2020 AGM, setting out his agenda for the next chapter in the bilateral relationship, and specifically calling for cooperation in the area of governance strengthening, saying: “We want to identify areas of improvement, especially in the area of strengthening our respective governance institutions through shared learning, technical support and infrastructural development.”

The first webinar will be an introduction to the series, with input from the three co-editors, and a Scottish response from Lord Jack McConnell. The next four will each be focused around one chapter of the book, with the author(s) of that chapter presenting a summary of their chapter in 15 minutes, with a 5-10 minute response from a prominent Scottish speaker, and 25 minutes of two-way discussion. The final three webinars will follow a similar format but with a panel of 3-4 Malawian academics, summarizing their respective chapters, with a shorter (5 minute) Scottish response, followed by an open 20 minute discussion. All are welcome to join these webinars and take part in the discussion and debate.

The series aims to make a constructive and tangible contribution to governance strengthening in Malawi, drawing on academic knowledge and expertise in Malawi and reflections and sharing from Scotland, in keeping with the governance strengthening agenda set by the Government of Malawi. This work is independent of government but follows the call from the President of Malawi for collaboration between Scotland and Malawi in the area of governance strengthening.

Find coverage of the ‘New Directions for Governance in Malawi’ webinar series, from The Nation here and the Nyasa Times here.

The context of this work for Malawi

On the 3rd February 2020, Malawi made history when the 2019 presidential election result was overturned after a panel of five High Court judges identified “widespread, systematic, and grave irregularities” in the polls, declared the result “invalid, null and void,” and called for a fresh election. The opposition Tonse Alliance comfortably won the peaceful fresh election and an orderly transfer of power took place. As a result, Malawi has won widespread international acclaim as a beacon of democracy and constitutionalism. The Constitutional Court judges won the 2020 Chatham House Prize; The Economist newspaper named Malawi as its “country of the year” for 2020; and US-based Freedom House found that Malawi was the only country in the world to have strengthened governance, freedom and democracy during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, where 80 had has theirs weakened.

While the Malawian people are to be congratulated on the resilience of their democracy, the crisis of 2019-20 also exposed weaknesses, which there is now an opportunity to address. A group of Malawi-based scholars have come together over the past year to write a book that aims to analyze Malawi’s governance from many different angles. It argues that the significant strengths of Malawi’s democratic governance have too often been undermined by a culture of impunity among those entrusted with political office. It charts new directions that can help the country to overcome deep-lying flaws in its pattern of governance and to energize a national effort to meet the challenges of economic development.

This webinar lecture series will showcase some of the main findings of the book. On each topic there will also be a response from a Scottish perspective, reflecting on how the Malawian experience might be relevant in the Scottish context and exploring opportunities for mutual learning. Each online session will be interactive, with questions and comments being invited from participants.

"The events of 2019/2020 were momentous not just for democracy in Malawi but for the wider region. This impressive volume brings together critical insights that reveal why the presidential election was nullified, how key democratic institutions emerged stronger than before, and the challenges that still remain. It is essential reading for anyone working on Malawian politics or democratic consolidation more broadly".

Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

The context of this work for the SMP

The SMP made 2020/21 and 2021/22 its Years of Governance Strengthening (YOGS); committing to use this period to support governance strengthening across three spheres:

  1. Within the SMP itself [our sphere of control]
  2. Amongst the SMP membership [our sphere of influence]
  3. In wider contexts across our two nations: [our sphere of concern]

We published a concept note at the start of 2020 outlining how we hoped to approach this.

In February 2020 we had a Governance Forum to work up more details with key members and stakeholders and then we formally launched the initiative during a visit to Scotland of the Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly and a dozen other Malawian MPs from different parties.

In early April 2020, the Board agreed a Covid-19 Response Strategy. Recognizing the significant new areas of work for the SMP to support members through the pandemic, and the limited staff capacity due to home working, it was agreed that this governance programme should be extended from one year, to two.

While Malawi has been celebrated globally as having significantly improved its governance in 2020, arguably more than any other country, we can claim little if any credit for this.

However, we feel this remains an important area, especially since the President of Malawi (and Hon Co-Patron of the SMP) specifically called for further cooperation in “the area of strengthening of our respective governance institutions” when addressing our AGM in October 2020.

Our focus for YOGS in 2020 was really limited to sphere 1: strengthening governance within the SMP itself. A number of internal governance improvements were made, most notably the shift to becoming a SCIO, with a completely new constitution.

We hope to advance sphere 2 (supporting our members’ governance) through an online governance training programme, later in the year.

The sponsorship of this book and the co-hosting of this webinar lecture series is part of sphere 3: how we propose to use the bilateral relationship to support wider governance strengthening.

SMP sponsorship

The SMP’s engagement in this area follows the explicit call from the President of Malawi, speaking at the SMP’s AGM in October 2021, for work on governance: “We want to identify areas of improvement, especially in the area of strengthening our respective governance institutions through shared learning, technical support and infrastructural development.”

SMP sponsorship will allow 400-500 copies of the book to be printed with roughly half made freely available to learning and related institutions in Malawi and the remainder commercially available at an affordable price in Malawi. The book will be available, on demand, outside Malawi.

Views expressed through the series are not necessarily those held by SMP or MaSP. Academic independence has been maintained and a range of different views are expressed in this series: all are open to discussion and debate. The SMP and MaSP are NGOs independent of government and both are politically neutral; neither SMP nor MaSP have fed into the content of the book.

SMP sponsorship of the book is using the Partnership’s own unrestricted reserves, not funding received from the Scottish Government.

At no point in this series will either Scotland or Malawi look to impose their views on governance on the other nation. Academics and civic leaders from both nations come together to discuss, share and learn from others, exploring areas of synergy and difference between both nations, as each looks to honestly share the governance challenges they have themselves experienced, and as both nations look to strengthen their respective governance.

As with all the SMP and MaSP do, we work within and hold ourselves accountable to our 11 Scotland-Malawi Partnership Principles.

Outline of Webinar series
  • Webinar 1 (27th October): Governance in Malawi: An Introduction
    Assoc Prof Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, Prof Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu and Rev Prof Kenneth Ross, with Scottish response by former First Minister of Scotland, Rt Hon. Lord Jack McConnell.
    This webinar introduced the book and the theme, with Lord McConnell taking a broad, comparative look at governance in Scotland.
  • Webinar 2 (30th November 2021): “A Decade of Governance as ‘Roving Banditry’”
    Dr Henry Chingaipe, with Scottish response by Sir Andrew Cubie
  • Webinar 3 (15th December 2021): “Citizen Trust in Malawi”
    Mr Joseph Chunga and Prof Happy Kayuni, with Scottish response from Prof Robert Mattes
  • Webinar 4 (26th January 2022): “Impunity versus Constitutional Legality”
    Dr Garton Kamchedzera, with Scottish response by Lord Jim Wallace, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland
  • Webinar 5 (February 2022): “Electoral Violence and Democratic Governance”
    Dr Edge Kanyongolo
  • Webinar 6 (March 2022): Panel event: a) trust in election management bodies; b) violence against women in elections; c) choice of electoral systems; d) 50-50 Campaigns – Gender Equality.
    Martin Limbikani Mwale, Gowokani Chijere Chirwa, Tony Mwenda Kamninga, Laston Petro Manja, Dr Anthony Jeckson Malunga, Dr Ngcimezile Mbano-Mweso, Dr Bernadette Wangisa Malunga, Ernest Thindwa, Assoc Prof Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza and Susan Dalgety
  • Webinar 7 (April 2022): Panel event: a) Opposition in Multiparty Malawi; b) Security Sector Governance; c) Executive Supremacy and the Armed Forces
    Assoc Prof Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, Dr John Chipembere Lwanda, George Chikondi Chipembere Lwanda, Mr Raphael Mbwana, Dan Kuwali, Mphatso Jones Boti Phiri
  • Webinar 8 (May 2022): Panel event: a) Ethnicity and Regionalism; b) Natural Resources; c) Covid-19 and Governance; d) Faith Perspectives:
    Assoc Prof Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, Dr Gift Wasambo Kayira, Dr Paul Chiudza Banda, Prof Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, Dr Bryson Gwiyani Nkhoma, Dr Gift Wasambo Kayira, Dr Paul Chiudza Banda, Dr Mzee Hermann Yokoniah Mvula, Rev Prof Kenneth R. Ross