The Malawi Council of Churches is seeking to mediate a political dispute between President Bingu wa Mutharika and Vice President Joyce Banda, who in December was expelled from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) - writes Frank Jomo.
"What is happening now is that we need to understand what the issues are since we are just talking from a distance. The process is long, but after that process, it is when we will try to talk to both parties. We want to find a way of bringing them together," MCC chair Bishop Joseph Bvumbwe told the Nation newspaper on 26 January.
Banda has been accused of creating a parallel party structure to help her contest the 2014 presidential elections after the DPP party endorsed the president’s brother, Peter Mutharika, as its candidate.
Last August, the DPP said that the nation is not ready to have a female president. The statement was immediately condemned by the church and civil society organisation, calling it an attack on the vice president and discriminatory against women.
Banda has never publicly announced she intends to run in the 2014 election but after being sidelined by the DPP, she was publicly ridiculed by party officials on state-funded radio and television stations.
"There is no way we can go on like this. We should bring the two to a round-table discussion in order to resolve their standoff," said Bvumbwe.
The church said the wrangle between the two is threatening the growth of democracy in the southern African nation. Last October, the Roman Catholic Church reprimanded the government for criticising the vice president as it tried to position Peter Mutharika to take over the reins of leadership.
"We are concerned with the lack of respect to the office and the person of the vice president. We ask the government to see to it that the office of the vice president be given all respect and necessary support," said a letter signed by nine Catholic bishops, members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.
Banda was picked by Bingu wa Mutharika as his running-mate during the 2009 elections, becoming Malawi's first female vice president.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]