Friday, November 30, 2007

Meag Interim President Lewis Chiwalo

The Malawi Economic Empowerment Action Group (Meeag) and the Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam), bodies that were established to fight for the economic empowerment of indigenous Malawians could not agree on how to merge the two groups.
Allegations of hidden political agendas were blamed for the failed merging.
Malawi News Reporter Rex Chikoko, this week met Meag Interim President Lewis Chiwalo to seek his side of the story, Excerpts:

We have noticed that there is kind of disagreement between your organisation and Ibam over the supposed merge between the two organisations. What is the problem?

Well, there is not much of a problem at the moment, only that it is the issue of the merger that broke down at one moment, but there is not much problem as far as I am concerned, there was just some misunderstanding on the way forward. We are still interested in pursuing the merger issue if they are interested.

Media reports suggest that there are some political powers behind these disagreements, what is your take?

That is not really correct, there is no political power behind our organisations, in fact our organisation is non partisan and at the same time we do not see the reason why someone should come in our organisation with political agendas when Malawi is a democratic country where anyone is free to register a political party, so that I absolutely not correct.

Your organisation and Ibam agree that you have similar objectives. What is it that is making the two organisations fail to merge, is it something to do with leadership problem?

Why can I not let that question pass as of now, to answer that question would be pre-empting what is supposed to be done on the ground, the issue of merger is likely to come in again in future. That question would be well answered at the later stage.

In your press release you indicated that you were at one time members of Ibam what made you leave the organisation and form another group with similar agendas?

I did not form another group, I joined another group, let me make a correction there, when Ibam was formed I was one of the members, and in my personal view we never took off the ground up until the other organisation was formed, I thought possibly by going to the other group we would move forward and break off the ground, that was the more reason why I joined Meeg.

What was new in that new organisation?

There is no much difference between Ibam and Meeg, perhaps the only difference possibly is that the new organisation looks at a broader picture of the economy while Ibam concentrates on the business spectrum, that is the only difference, but I thought I would play a major role in Meeg than in Ibam to make sure that we meet our objectives to at least look at the broader picture of the economy and assist government on the way forward in economic advancement.

Change of name here is coming out as the only stumbling block to the two groups possibility of working together, how do you suggest the groups can work together to circumvent the problem?

Let’s make it quite clear here, we launched this organisation in January this year and we have been holding so many meetings that have been attended by people from all walks of life. In one of the meetings some members of Ibam came to attend and having realised that we share their views, they proposed that we should merge we were very flexible and accepted the idea having seen that if we form one common front we will achieve our objectives. Unfortunately because of some misunderstanding the issue stalled.

However let me indicate that there was a task force composed of members of the two groups who were mandated to come up with recommendations on the merger way forward, some the recommendation was that there should be a change of leadership, but things never worked as the other group changed their mind and asked us to join them. Having said this, what people should appreciate is that economic empowerment issues are more complex than we view them, in that case we should be able to accommodate as many minds as possible, what we are saying is that unless we open up and let others come in we are not going to achieve our objectives.

So far, how far have gone with Meeeg?

We have done so much, we are coming with a business development strategic plan that would be sold to government and engage it to changing some of its policies. It is a long way to go and we need combined forces to forge ahead. We are going to reach out to Ibam, they are our partners in development, and we are almost one. The only thing is that we had a slight misunderstanding at a certain point which to me I know that it has been cleared, we talk to each other and we have discussed the way forward. And we have not really shelved the idea of merging; possibly in future we could sit and resume the discussions.

Any last word?

I appreciate that people are now able to see what we are trying to do, we can not leave all these huge tasks [of developing the country] to government alone, we have to come in and assist in areas we feel possible we can assist. Government is a big institution that has so many activities so could have a lot of grey areas and our role is to assist in these grey areas so that at the end of the day Malawi would achieve meaningful economic development

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