Delivering change in Malawi: Atupele’s speech at UDF policy conference

I am honoured to welcome you to the United Democratic Front’s first ever, National Policy Conference, on behalf of our organizing Committee, and in my own name.

I would like to extend a very warm and special welcome to our international guests, our sister parties and all stakeholders who have come to demonstrate their solidarity with us, to share their views and experiences with us, and contribute to our deliberations.

I would like to assure you, that we value your presence among us very highly and we thank you for your acceptance to our invitation to attend this first Policy Conference.

Atupele Muluzi:

I am certain that this Policy Conference will live up to your expectations, and once again, serve to affirm the UDF’s commitment to transforming Malawi.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me begin with a few borrowed words from former President Thabo Mbeki:

“I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.”

 Ladies and Gentlemen

This Policy Conference is a culmination of a journey which began two years ago, following our launch of the Agenda for Change. It is a product of blood, sweat and tears. We have worked so ferociously hard, sacrificed so much of our time, to be where we are today. I salute each and every one of my colleagues, friends and mentors who have been a part of this great effort.

This Policy Conference marks a new dawn to the way we conduct our business in Malawi. It marks a seismic shift from focusing on petty vendetta, personality politics and uninformed discourse, to a robust and well informed dialogue on what we must and should do to transform our society into a wealthy and well-governed nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen

This Policy Conference does not seek to re-invent the wheel. It starts from three very unique vantage points:

First: Malawians know and understand their problems. What they absolutely need is a credible forum where they can collectively develop solutions to address these challenges. This theme will reverberate all throughout this Policy Conference. Our mantra is that ‘it is not the what; but rather, it is the how that matters’.

Second: The backbone for this Policy Conference is ‘Delivering Change in Malawi’; upon which we have synthesised two key tenets: i) inclusive growth and ii) governance. These tenets have been further unpacked into four main cross-cutting themes that will deliberated and debated upon over the next two days.

These are:

a) sustainable jobs and wealth creation,

b) protecting our poor and vulnerable,

c) making the public purse work for all Malawians and d) operating a political system that guarantees the voice and participation of ordinary people.

Third: These themes are interconnected. Making progress on some improves prospects in others, and vice versa. This means that any plan to transforming Malawi will only be effective if it is directed into a coherent strategy that covers these four themes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have two tasks today.

First, is to make the connections between these four themes and illustrate how, taken together, they form the backbone of Malawi’s economic, social and political transformation agenda. A genuine Change Agenda needs to tie together, economic, social and political transformation in Malawi.  We, in fact, have, in our own traditions across Malawi, proverbs that capture the importance of such coherence.

Chichewa: Mutu Umodzi susenza Denga

Chiyawo: We need a proverb

Tumbuka: We need a proverb

Ladies and Gentlemen

I will attempt to illustrate these interconnections as follows:

Number 1: we must focus on the root causes of Malawi’s challenges. I identify these to be:

  • First, the state has failed to create wealth for all Malawian and to manage the economy.
  • Second, we have a political system that allows the privileged few, to consume state resources for their own use while disregarding the voices of ordinary people.

Number 2: Malawi must create its wealth while protecting its poor. To do this, we must manage our public resources better and ensure that poor people (including the youth) have a say over how the country is run.

  • Creating wealth for all Malawians rests on our ability to provide an enabling environment for this to happen. This means generating confidence of the private sector to invest in small, medium and large scale initiatives, guaranteeing our farmers that they will get their crops to market safely, providing the appropriate skills to all, especially our young men and women to get decent jobs in a market friendly environment. Alongside that, it is to develop a social protection system that will take care of our most vulnerable, whilst also guaranteeing them equal access to basic services such as education and health as well as other opportunities.

 

  • But, to do this, the State has to master the discipline of managing its public purse in a manner that forces it to spend on the right priorities.  This means that we must reform our political system, in a manner that ensures that those in power recognize that it is in both their and ordinary Malawian’s interests not to abuse state resources and that they will be punished for doing so. Most importantly, the public has to feel confident that it has the appropriate channels to have their voice and needs heard. Malawians must see exactly where every kwacha is going. Leaders must ensure that where our resources are not reaching the people who need it, this must be tracked and stopped. We have no right to ask for resources from our external partners if we cannot manage our public purse transparently. Malawi must lead by example.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I now want to focus on a second part of my task today, which is to share some thoughts on ‘the how’ (that is, the things that we must ensure to do, to deliver on this change). This must and should be one of our key discussion tenets during this Policy Conference.

At the risk of stealing the thunder from the various experts and discussants in attendance, let me focus on two key broad elements that must govern our ability to get things done.

First, the quality of leadership absolutely matters. This must entail a fusion of the wise and the young who bring a rich blend of elements to leadership. It is in having these forces combined that will guarantee the delivery of a reform agenda that really works for Malawi.

Leaders must live by example–as individuals, within a collective, in both private and public spheres. Leaders must commit to public service once they are chosen to serve.

Second, we need to build a culture that can prioritize; sequence and demonstrate results. We can’t do everything at once. We have finite resources. And we must be able to demonstrate tangible results to all Malawians against the use of these resources. This lies at the heart of any social contract between the state and its citizens.

Malawi’s leadership, through its Cabinet, has to be at the center of infusing this culture across state and society. A credible Cabinet must: a) set major policy priorities of government and b) make choices within those competing priorities through its national budget; c) hold it-self accountable to the people for delivering on measurable results.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the Working Committee for all the preparatory effort that has gone into this endeavour.

I welcome the feisty debates that will take place over the coming days as they indicate your interest in UDF policy making. We look forward to fruitful, open and engaging debates at this Conference as well on all the issues.

We pride ourselves in pioneering a movement towards policy dialogue and changing a political culture that focuses on substantive issues that matter for Malawians. Let us go to the deliberations with open minds and engage in the discussions with a view to strengthening and improving UDF policies. Most importantly, let us remember that we are not doing this for ourselves as UDF. We are doing it for Malawi.

The outcomes of this Policy Conference must demonstrate in clear terms that Malawians are ready to ‘deliver change’.

We dare not disappoint expectations.

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