In the matter of DPP’s hypocrisy: Malawi’s ruling PP standpoint

Preamble

The statement issued by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at its Press Conference on October 29, 2012 makes interesting reading. It is a piece of literal adventure, which passes for a true testament of what happens when people are running short on memory. They are not able to save information that could be critical to save them from embarrassment on a day of reckoning.

The statement also confirms abundantly the fears of all sensible Malawians that the DPP is fitted with a broken thermostat, which is why the party lacks in variables of self-regulation, namely shame and reasoned thought. The statement was another part of DPP’s endless wasted efforts aimed at the helpless business of political-points scoring, always without substance.

The DPP claims that it is concerned that “the President, Mrs. Joyce Banda, and her People’s Party” are not addressing issues raised by the party which, in its wisdom, are also the concerns of all Malawians. The party terms this assumed absence of inaction as “executive arrogance”.

Makande: Signed the statement

Executive arrogance

The DPP deserves the favour of reminding, like any small child, that executive arrogance has known parents in Malawi. Their names are Bingu wa Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace) and the DPP. The former is the father and the latter is the mother. The arrogance of this father is documented even in international literature. It is that arrogance that formed part of the reasons he had to be unceremoniously removed as Secretary General of COMESA.

It is this arrogance that prompted his dumping of the UDF and his formation of the DPP. It is that arrogance that formed part of his style of leadership both at state and party level. It is that arrogance that pitted this country against the goodwill of our neighbours and cooperating partners. It is that arrogance that caused the delay in the implementation of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project.

It is that arrogance that influenced him to pick a fight with Britain by throwing out its envoy from Malawi. It is that arrogance that caused Malawi to become an economic pariah state. It is that arrogance that led to the closure of the Chancellor College for what is now called the ‘Academic Freedom’ stalemate. It is that arrogance that led to, among other undesirable and avoidable consequences, the killing of 20 people during the July 20, 2011 social unrest. It is that arrogance that led to the ejecting of then Vice President Mrs. Joyce Banda from the DPP. It is that arrogance, which is the reason why DPP is in the opposition today.

It is the same arrogance that makes DPP to think that ruling this country is its entitlement. This is the reason it can claim, without self-restraint, that what it says resonates with the aspirations of the people of Malawi. This is not case. Malawians have proven to be above the robots the DPP takes them for. This is the reason the DPP has lost three by-elections in a row—Rumphi Central while it was in power; and two others in Mzimba while in the opposition.

Come to think of it. Can the DPP be talking about the importance of the President and a governing party responding to the concerns of the people? How long did Bingu and his DPP government take to respond to concerns of the civil society after the July 20, 2011 killings?

President Banda does not need to take lectures from the DPP’s school of urgency because she graduated into understanding and responding speedily to people’s needs long before leaders of the DPP enlisted into that school.

Rule of law, rights

On the rule of law and human rights, DPP wondered in its statement why the President had appointed into cabinet people who have criminal cases in court, arguing that doing so undermines the justice system. The DPP singles out Hon. Atupele Muluzi, Hon. Ralph Kasambara and Hon. Dr. Cassim Chilumpha.

Luckily, the DPP is currently led by a professor at law. Therefore ignorance by him or his party on the provisions of the law on these matters can only be a matter of deliberate choice. If Professor Mutharika did not choose, deliberately, to be ignorant, he would have reminded himself that as he helped to put together the Constitution of Malawi, a provision was included, which says that anybody, arrested or just suspected to have committed a crime, remains innocent until a court of law finds him or her guilty.

The fact that these ministers were suspected to have committed crimes under the DPP administration does not make them criminals because no known court, except probably one in the wishes of the DPP, found them guilty. In so far as the laws of this Republic are concerned, they are not prevented from participating in the affairs of this country in any capacity, including that of cabinet minister.

The DPP deserves another reminder that it is on the basis of the same maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” that Bingu maintained Hon. Patricia Kaliati and Hon. Goodall Gondwe in cabinet despite them being under investigation for some alleged impropriety.

The fact that they were not arrested does not make them different from Hon. Muluzi, Hon. Kasambara and Hon. Chilumpha because in both cases, what they face are mere allegations, which have not been proven to breach their innocence.

Dismissal of government officials

The DPP claims that “the Banda administration has illegally removed individuals from public offices for political reasons and replaced them on the basis of political patronage and nepotism”. According to the DPP, the former ACB Director Mr. Alexious Nampota was falsely arrested and subsequently dismissed apparently because it was believed that he was too close to the Mutharika administration. Others mentioned are the Clerk of Parliament, Mrs. Matilda Katopola, MRA Commissioner General, Mr. Lloyd Muhara, Chief Immigration Officer, Mr. Elvis Thodi and Reserve Bank Governor, Mr. Perks Ligoya.

The DPP continues to lay bare its inability to remember basic facts. It is a party that is clearly in a hurry to find fault without paying attention to the need to check its facts. No public officer has been removed illegally by the PP government. There is a marked difference between moving people around for purposes of effectiveness and dismissing them on grounds of nepotism or politics. For sure, President Banda has moved people around.

There is no known law that has been violated by shifting people around. As expected, some have accepted; others have refused. The fact that some people are protesting their shifting does not create a violation of the law.

Elsewhere, the DPP claims that Hon. Muluzi, Hon. Kasambara and Hon. Chilumpha should not have been appointed into cabinet because doing so undermines the administration of justice in Malawi. They should first have been brought before a court of law where their innocence or guilt should have been confirmed.

Sound argument, if that is the line of argument. Then why is Mr. Nampota being treated differently. Why are the allegations against Mr. Nampota trumped up? Why are they not worthy adjudicating upon in a court of law? If the allegations against Mr. Nampota can be made up, why can’t the allegations against Hon. Muluzi, Hon. Kasambara and Hon. Chilumpha be made up as well? If the allegations against Mr. Nampota are not worthy the attention of the court on the basis of their falseness, why should other people also not claim that the allegations against the three are false and not worthy court’s time?

Leave that alone; does the DPP remember Dr. Elias Ngalande? He was dismissed as Governor of the Reserve Bank immediately after Bingu became President; Roosevelt Gondwe, was removed as Clerk of Parliament and posted to Japan; Ernest Mtingwi was removed from the MRA; the late General Joseph Chimbayo, was removed as Army Commander; Joseph Aironi, who was removed as Inspector General of Police? The DPP conducts itself like someone who did not realize that by judging others his closet was opening up and his skeletons were falling out.

Furthermore, the DPP accuses the Banda administration of showing impunity in big government procurement contracts allegedly as exemplified by the disqualification of Mulli Brothers Limited from the supply and transportation list of successful bidders in Farm Input Subsidies Programme just because the owner “was too close to the Bingu administration”.

This is another classic case of DPP’s unfeeling hypocrisy. There is no proof that Mulli Brothers was not picked because of politics. This speaks of the DPP’s hangover in respect of its mischievous practices where favourite individuals were being favoured with government contracts because of who they knew; their belonging to the President’s tribe and their membership to the DPP.

Such kind of underhandedness is one, which affected such individual’s capacity to be adequate in a competitive bidding process. Since they used to be picked through nepotism and patronage, they think the same is obtaining now. Not at all! The process now is transparent and only those that meet the requirements are being picked.

The DPP must be ashamed to perpetuate the erroneous view that only one company in Malawi has the monopoly of capabilities and capacities to execute government contracts. This view is as unacceptable as it is offensive because it insults the capabilities and capacities of other citizens of this Republic.

Press freedom

The DPP claims that the Banda administration has been posing a serious threat to freedom of expression, especially the freedom of the Press. The party cites as an example the arrest of Malawi Voice reporter Justice Mponda on October 14, 2012. The DPP also claims that a reporter for Joy Radio, Rebecca Chimjeka is also living in fear after receiving threats by ‘cadets’ working for the ruling PP that they will deal with her accordingly for exposing crooked deals in the fertilizer subsidy programme.

These claims only amount to expose the DPP as possessing a sense of political humour only meant to lightening up the political scene. No sensible person can take seriously attacks from the DPP bordering on muzzling the press.

Mabvuto Banda of The Nation and Raphael Tenthani of the BBC have accounts to relate about how the Bingu administration threw them into the cooler for reporting that the President, Bingu, had asked for prayers to exorcise his palace of ghosts.

Daily Times’ Mike Chipalasa was arrested and spent days in the cell. Daily Times’ Dickson Kashoti has his own story about how he was arrested for an alleged libelous wrong. Maxwell Ng’ambi, formerly of The Nation, was taken to court for exposing an official close to Bingu.

How about the beatings that journalists received while they covered the July 20 demonstrations? How about the journalists that were pursued by the brutal DPP cadets for asking uncomfortable questions at Bingu’s press conferences?

The DPP government had actually banned government advertising with Nation Publication Limited for keeping the Bingu administration in check. It is the DPP administration that introduced legislation to empower a minister to ban publications, which “in his view do not serve public interest”. The examples are too many to cite. All these were reversed under the Banda administration.

If any journalist has been arrested today, it is for reasons outside the practice of journalism. The DPP must be reminded that under the Constitution, no one, including journalists, is above the law. Journalists are not beyond reproach; where they are found on the wrong side of the law, they will be dealt with accordingly. Playing hypocrisy on this matter is being unreasonable.

While the PP strongly condemns individuals that threaten journalists via anonymous phone calls or otherwise, such acts cannot, surely, be blamed on the PP government.

Economic governance

The DPP claims that there is currently an economic crisis and that the current administration has failed to address this crisis, particularly the effects of devaluation.

The DPP claims that failure by the Banda administration to control rising prices, allowing them to keep on rising every month, has resulted in ordinary Malawians becoming desperate, causing them to turn to unsafe food and water that are hazardous to national health.

This is another sad example of how far some people can go to play the double-standards card in a hapless attempt to score political points. No-one will pretend that the economy of Malawi is in a good state. But it would always be distressing to see Satan trying to steer clear of responsibility of causing evil in the world. This is what the DPP always tries to do when discussing the economy.

When the President and PP came to power, they found themselves sitting on less than one month import cover. The money stock was growing consistently at above 30 percent a year and inflation that used to be in single digits for a while – thanks to cash transfers to farmers – was accelerating fast.

What is being called one month import cover should be adjusted by the fact that the banking system was holding payments arrears of about US$400 million, and one has no idea what was kept outside that system.

The increase in money stock was being pushed by credit expansion to both the private sector and government. This happened despite the fact that there was a zero-deficit budget. In sharp contrast to the political impunity in dealing with the country’s problems under the Bingu regime, indeed departing sharply from the country’s history of stop-go policies, the new Banda administration has undertaken bold measures to correct long-standing macroeconomic imbalances and to set the stage for an economic recovery in the months ahead.

The President has demonstrated passion to transform Malawi from aid dependence to a trade dependent nation and improve the welfare of her people. The President has also taken clear steps to allow central bank policy independence, which Malawi badly needs. This is the reason the IMF agreed to resume a programme with Malawi under the Extended Credit Facility with a doubling in access to Fund resources.

If the government can continue to adhere to its stated policy of zero borrowing, then Malawi’s future is on the right path. At the moment Malawi is paying a price for messing up under the DPP administration. The country consumed beyond its means, thanks to an overvalued exchange rate.

To justify an over-valued currency, the DPP administration used to force every exporter to repatriate our hard won foreign exchange – it is difficult to fathom how a country can claim hard currency it has not earned – the government only owns what it earns through taxes and the hard currency earned through sales of its local currency. The government does not own anybody’s assets, and that’s by Constitution.

The short of the story is that DPP wanted to have everyone to become Indigenous Economists – we had to recall that we have lived on subsistence farming all our lives, so we would make it. Global rules of the game did not have to apply to us – we have had to have our own rules.

The man on the street is entitled to undiminished income. He is entitled to zero inflation. If the government has devalued the currency, it must increase salaries by as much. That is whether or not the ailing companies have the resources to fully compensate for the lost purchasing power without passing on the cost to the same consumer.

The DPP’s shortcut philosophy being hypocritically propounded is that we have to live comfortably as before, forgetting the fact that others are unemployed because we were busy under that DPP administration exporting jobs through an overvalued exchange rate, through negative interest rates that undermine the savings culture and encourage low productivity. Forget the many hours spent out of the office in search of fuel that never came or that finished just before we got to the pump.

If President Banda had a choice, she could have left the Kwacha and interest rates alone. But that would not have favoured the common Malawian. The extent of economic malaise created by the previous DPP regime was unprecedented in our short history. It will take a lot more work and sacrifice by the man on the street before things get better. This is not the time for growth. It is the time for correction. Hopefully, by this time next year, this country will be different.

The key to successful recovery will be the patience of the man on the street and the political will to implement the 2012/2013 Budget as passed. With that, the currency will stabilize; interest rates will begin to come down; foreign exchange reserves will be built up and investors will start looking at Malawi again.

We will forget that fuel used to be scarce. With increased reserves, we will open up trade more so that Malawians can enjoy the economic freedoms so enshrined in our Constitution.

Financial prudence

The DPP claims that “the country continues to lose its hard won financial reserves because recently President Banda withdrew over K300 million from government coffers to fund her trip to the United Nations General Assembly”. The DPP claims that President Banda was accompanied by a large number of traditional chiefs and party supporters.

Adequate explanation has already been made to the effect that only one traditional chief, Senior Chief Malemia of Nsanje, had accompanied the President. The four PP members were sponsored by the President, personally. However, DPP’s claims to the contrary confirm suspicions that it is on a serious fault-finding mission.

Actually, to the DPP, wrongness is only when someone does it or is perceived to be doing it. Why? Records will show that chiefs, businessmen, and friends were part of Bingu’s foreign entourages. Why did the DPP not scream its protestations then?

Bingu abused public resources swimming in Portugal and basking in the sun on the beaches of Australia or Indonesia and shopping in South China. He would do this for months. Where was prudence?

From state coffers, Bingu used to pay his own wife a morally unacceptable salary and obscene allowances to cover her electricity, water, security, and transport bill yet she was already enjoying these amenities free of charge as First Lady. Can financial recklessness get any worse?

These have been reversed by President Banda. She has even abandoned the presidential jet and now uses commercial aircrafts to cut back on spending. If she travels at all, it is to mend fences with our neighbours; our cooperating partners; our investors; share in the pains of her people and reassure them with her physical presence that she knows their problems and she is doing everything that is possible to make sure things get better.

Fertilizer Subsidy Programme

The DPP claims this year’s programme cannot be admired as “at present no single coupon has been distributed despite being close to the rainy season”.

The DPP attributes this to “government’s deliberate move of cancelling the earlier tenders with an aim of awarding the contracts to PP sympathizers, who are now failing to bring fertilizer home because they have neither the capacity nor the experience for such an important programme”. It should be submitted that had the DPP done a good job in terms of mobilization and distribution of the fertilizer subsidy programme resources during its time, the need to clean up the system would not have arisen. The Banda administration is being haunted by the excesses of the preceding DPP regime, which included awarding of contracts on the basis of corrupt, nepotistic and political imperatives.

The delays today are largely caused by the need to straighten out things so that the resources do not get caught in the cob webs of administrative and operational gaffes that were being deliberately created, ignored or perpetuated because some people were benefitting from them.

If the system can be redeemed of its problems in order for all the resources to reach the intended beneficiaries then delaying is not a disadvantage but an advantage. It will ensure more people benefit and in turn Malawi will gain because it will harvest more.

The claims keep coming that the challenges being encountered with regard to the subsidy programme have resulted from the non-participation of Mulli Brothers who it is claimed is the only one with the capacity to handle a programme of such magnitude.

Mention has to be made that the DPP is an unfeeling party because it is siding with unfair practices where someone’s capacity was augmented by a corrupt system aided by dubious procurement bank facilities. DPP must be told that these matters are part of a forensic investigation and at an appropriate time those found in the wrong will be brought to book. It must be said categorically that Malawi must be a country of equal opportunities

Respect for women

The DPP accuses the PP government of trampling on the rights of women, claiming “women are being ridiculed and called names”. The response by the Vice President to the complaints of the public about the administration’s extravagant travels, where he answered that sitimayenda pakhomo pa amanu (we don’t travel to your mothers’ homes) is an unfortunate case in point, says the DPP. The DPP calls upon the PP administration to apologize and re-assure Malawian women that their dignity will not anymore be insulted in this manner.

Search for political points can never get more desperate. What is worse is that the DPP shows it is not in tune with the turn of events in the country.

To demand for an apology on a matter on which an apology was already made almost a month earlier is irresponsible and childish. Irresponsible, because you are wasting people’s time to be attending to matters already done with. Childish, because you are like a cry baby who does not know that things must always come to their closure; and you must move on.

Be that as it may, the Vice President apologized. It was surprising to a country that is not used to leaders humbling themselves to say sorry. It drew a sharp contrast to the attitude of Bingu who, despite claiming not to be Jesus Christ, claimed infallibility, which is the preserve of Heavenly Being only.

One wonders as to when the DPP discovered the morality of apologizing, when the same DPP cheered on as its late leader, Bingu, passionately backed former Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito not to apologize to the academia for planting spies in lecture rooms.

Coming to abusive language against women, does DPP need a record of the many insults they spewed on the current President while she served as Vice President? Does the DPP need reminding that Hon. Anita Kalinde was beaten up by DPP sluts at Chileka Airport for her unflinching loyalty to then Vice President? If DPP really cares about the welfare of women, why did it refuse to sanction an inquiry into a mysterious accident where a private vehicle rammed into the Vice President’s official limousine at Kanengo?

When Bingu used to call his critics tiankhwenzule were the current leaders of DPP around? What did they make of Bingu’s insults to the Bishops that, pamene mumalemba Pastoral Letter munali mutamwa Kuche Kuche ku Bwandilo? When Bingu’s wife kept calling Mrs. Joyce Banda as Mayi wogulitsa mandasi, was that respectful of women?

Presidential Convoy

The DPP attacks Banda’s administration on the presidential convoy, claiming it is long and wasteful. The DPP needs pleading with to desist from making statements, which are primarily aimed at provoking the People’s Party government. Can the DPP really be justified to damn the President for an alleged long convoy? Surely?

During the previous regime, Bingu was running one of the longest convoys in this part of the world? Is it not Bingu who added Hummers to the already long convoy? Was it not the intervention of Parliament that prevented him from adding Maybach Sedans to that convoy? Why does DPP choose to forget conveniently?

If it were not for security reasons, the DPP leaders should have been invited to physically count on their fingers the number of vehicles in the presidential fleet. They would have been shocked and embarrassed to discover that they are not as many as they reckon. The other vehicles on the convoy are not from State House. They are from security agencies obviously and the ministry, department or institution relevant to the presidential trip.

Selective Justice

The DPP finds it “disturbing” that President Banda’s drive against corruption and seeking justice is being applied selectively in that only DPP members are being targeted. It has now become the case that everybody wishing to escape the course of justice or avoid her political witch hunt must join the People’s Party.

The DPP may have to cite names of its officials who, suspected of any crime, were arrested by its administration. If DPP is a champion of justice, why did it refuse to investigate the mystery of a private vehicle ramming into the limousine of the Vice President at Kanengo? Why did the DPP not have arrested the thugs who beat up Hon. Kalinde in the presence of the police?

Why did the DPP not arrest its ministers whose cases had been endorsed by the Director of Public Prosecutions? Talking about targeting political opponents, is Bingu not on record to have instructed ACB Director Gustave Kaliwo to arrest Bakili Muluzi with the aim of “shaking him up”? Were leaders of the opposition and civil society not detained when they planned to conduct demonstrations to express their unhappiness with the visit and name of a road after Robert Mugabe?

How many times were many UDF executives, including the former Head of State Bakili Muluzi, arrested during the DPP administration? Did the taxpayers not compensate Rashid Nembo for being wrongfully arrested in the alleged plot to assassinate President Bingu wa Mutharika?

Is it not true most cases of corruption under DPP were concluded, consent for prosecution given, but were not taken to court because the people involved were members of the DPP? Does the DPP remember the Vwaza-Nyika Concession saga? What happened to the ‘Special Client Account’ Matter?

It is strange that the DPP wants equal justice, but when the current administration recommends to court cases of DPP members whose investigations were already concluded under its administration, claims of political witch-hunt emerge.

Misozi Chanthunya

The DPP claims that the current administration has directed an immediate stop of an extradition case of Misozi Chanthunya, who is wanted in Malawi for allegedly killing a Zimbabwean girl, Linda Gasa.

This is another lie by DPP aimed at tarnishing the image of President Banda. Nothing can be further from the truth. President Banda is in no way connected to the case and has always committed not to interfere in the administration of justice whether within or without Malawi.

Lake Malawi dispute

The DPP claims Malawians are living in fear and consternation with regard to the country’s border dispute with Tanzania. The party alleges it was surprised that President Banda has taken the boarder wrangle issue to the UN surpassing several continental and regional bodies such as the AU, SADC and COMESA.

DPP claims it was ready to help government on the issue by providing some of its members who are law experts such as its interim president, Peter Mutharika.

It is disappointing that the DPP would like to politicize and score points on a matter that should ordinarily not be the subject of partisan politics. Facts are available that differences of positions regarding the lake have existed as far back as the days of first President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Instead, all previous administrations have shied away from this issue, choosing to postpone it and have people live in the illusion that all is well. The present administration should thus be commended for taking proactive steps to have this matter dealt with once and for all.

That the DPP leader is ready to help is shameful and offensive. This sordid falsehood should help Malawians never to allow DPP back into power. These people are unrepentant. How can someone claim he is ready to help and yet he boycotted a consultative meeting the President convened to benefit from the views of all leaders of political parties in Malawi?

The DPP also said it is joining the Malawi Law Society in condemning the government’s decision, coming at a time when the country is experiencing extreme economic hardships, to hire expensive lawyers from the United Kingdom just to draft a paper to be presented to Tanzania for negotiations “when we have so many learned Malawians.” This is another shameful case of hypocrisy.

When Bingu was buying a jet, was the country any better in terms of poverty levels? When Bingu was spending money luxuriating in Portugal, Indonesia or Australia, were Malawians not in problems?

Talking about foreign lawyers, the DPP administration hired Anthony Berry from London to lead the prosecution of a treason case against Dr. Cassim Chilumpha. The lawyer was pocketing monthly fees of K10 million (about 65, 789 pounds) as of last year. If committed to alleviating the problems that Malawians are meeting every day, K10 million every month would have gone a long way.

The same administration hired a foreign lawyer to make its case of constructive resignation against Dr. Chilumpha. Professor Jeffrey Jowell, QC, was outsourced from the Blackstone Chambers in London in March 2006.

Conclusion

The People’s Party would wish to advise the DPP and other critics that the People’s Party led government under the visionary leadership of Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda remains open to criticism because we believe that this is one way of making sure that things are done in the best interest of the People of Malawi.

However, we are not ready to entertain criticism that is not factual and spawned from the ponds of malice. This kind of criticism is offensive and unhelpful because it only caters to self-seeking motives and narrow agendas of selfish individuals.

Hophmally Makande

NATIONAL PUBLICITY SECRETARY

PEOPLE’S PARTY

November 4, 2012

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