Mphatso Nkhoma –Nyasa Times
Leader of the opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Dr Lazarus Chakwera has criticised President President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation address (Sona) on Monday, saying he missed an opportunity to restore the confidence of many Malawians and has called on all citizens to wake up and fight for good leadership and development from their elected leaders.
Chakwera, in his SONA reply in parliament, challenged Malawians lawmakers to declare that time for “bed-time stories” like Muthairka’s boring speech is over.
He said lawmakers are not in parliament to sleep to warm the chairs, to fight for their political agendas, to accumulate allowances or for the cameras.
“We are not here to be thoughtless hand-clappers. And yes, Mr. Speaker Sir, I dare say that even if we feel that the President’s speech before this honourable house was no better than a make-believe and uninspiring bed-time story, we are not here to sleep,” said Chakwera in apparent dig to Leader of House George Chaponda who was caught on camera sleeping and reportedly snoring.
Other MPs were also seen sleeping while Mutharika delivered his speech.
Unlike the Head of State, the opposition leader kept the august House awake when he made his epic speech.
Chakwera trashed Mutharika’s speech titled ‘towards recovery and development’, saying the President has made it clear that he is satisfied to keep Malawians waiting for the recovery and development of the country, saying the people of Malawi do not want any leader to tell them to keep waiting.
“ The people of Malawi do not want to be told that their recovery is still in the future. The people of Malawi want, need, and demand results now,” said Chakwera.
Chakwera said Mutharika’s speech did not depict a true state of the nation, saying the real picture out there is that Malawians are desperate.
“They feel that their country has literally fallen apart. The headlines in our daily papers range from stories about theft of drugs in hospitals to long winding queues at ADMARC depots, water rationing, electricity load shedding, the ongoing plunder of public resources in government and in embassies, high inflation, and the rising cost of living and albino killings.
“ So even though the President claims that the economy is stabilizing, I am here to tell him that the only place where that claim is true in real terms is in the State House he occupies, where all his bills and living expenses are paid for by Malawian tax-payers. But for our people, who pay their own bills and living expenses, there is nothing stable about this economy,” said Chakwera.
He stressed: “People are suffering in this country. The Kwacha continues to slide downwards despite all our efforts to manipulate the exchange rate. The recent trends show that while the Kwacha was artificially made to gain on the United States Dollar from about K765 to K693 to the Dollar, the short lived artificial relief did not last and therefore the Kwacha has gone back to more than K715 to one United States Dollar. If we want a truly strong currency, we must base it on a truly strong economy.
“No amount of manipulation and band-aid tactics will change the fact that the economic fundamentals of this country are not right or that the task of fixing them is firmly in the wrong hands.”
Chakwera in his address was blunt: “The Mutharika administration is a failed government! “
He said Malawi needs a stable economy, but that cannot be achieved if government is failing to stimuate the economic activities of ordinary Malawians, “ and you can’t stimulate those activities without ending the unaffordable and unrealistic interest rate policy of the Reserve Bank, which seems to base its rate on the price of maize, as if everybody borrows money just to buy maize for eating. “
Added Chakwera: “You can’t claim that you want to get Malawians out of poverty when the money they need to start business can only be borrowed at interest rates above 20%. As a result, the levels of default are very high and Malawians are losing their homes to find relief from the shackles of debt by which their own government is enslaving them. This is criminal.”
Chakwera also bemoaned that unemployment is on the increase as companies close down due to high inflation, interest and taxation rates.
“Of particular concern is the reported retrenchment that is happening at the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB). In 2015 the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), civil society organisations and people of good will vehemently opposed the reasons and manner in which Government went on to sale the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB). One of the reasons was to safeguard the jobs of the Malawians who work there. But as we speak, a massive retrenchment has taken place at the MBS. This will add to the already swelling numbers of unemployed citizens.
“This is happening despite strong recommendations that there should be no retrenchment arising from the merger within the first two years. We have noted that the new owner has gone ahead to effect the retrenchment before the 2 year period is over, thus breaking faith with Malawians”
The opposition chiefs urged Malawians and MPs of to resolve that “ the time for tolerating bed-time stories and the time for sleeping while our ship is sinking is over. “
After his address, Chaponda, who did not sleep this time around, protested on Chakwera’s lively speech, saying he was “making an impression that nothing has happened in the last two years.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :