Malawi 2nd presidential debate: Same all, empty all

Malawi’s 11 presidential candidates in the May 20 elections, except President Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP) took part in the second and final debate Tuesday evening in the Capital Lilongwe  full of rhetorics and very  little on substance.

The debate held at the Bingu International Conference Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe, attracted  Atupele Muluzi of United Democratic Front (UDF) Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Davis Katsonga of Chipani Cha Pfuko (CCP),  George Nnensa who is leading the Tisintha Alliance, and Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Others were Kamuzu Chibambo of the People’s Transformation Party (Petra), Prof John Chisi of Umodzi Party (UP), Friday Jumbe of New Labour Party (NLP), Mark Katsonga Phiri of People’s Progressive Movement (PPM), James Nyondo of National Salvation Front (Nasaf) and Helen Singh of United Independent Party (UIP) .

Malawians who listened to the debate on electronic media took to social media arguing that if the presidential debates were meant to offer Malawians a chance to evaluate candidates so they could vote along policy or ideological lines, they were futile.

President Banda has put her foot down that she will not participate in any of the debates because she is too “busy”.

Banda’s party said aid they realised that most of the topics to be discussed during the debates could be addressed through other forums including campaign rallies.

Candidates during the second presidential debate

Candidates during the second presidential debate

Media Institute of Southern Africa chairperson Anthony Kasunda in his opening speech said: “On May 20, Malawians would be employing a chief executive officer of this country. You can only be employed after interviews. I thank presidential candidates who have accepted to be interviewed tonight. The rest we leave to Malawians who are the shareholders of Malawi to judge. Like in any job, there is a need for the shareholders to know what the potential CEO has to offer.”

One of the hot topics of the night was economy.  The moderator, the Reverend Patrick Semphere, asked the candidates on the podium to outline their vision for Malawi on ’Economic Self-Sufficiency and taming donor dependence.’

All opposition leaders sounded in chorus for Malawi to move away from aid and be economic independence and attract Foreign Direct Investments.

New Labour Party (NLP) president Friday Anderson Jumbe, a former Finance Minister said: “We need to move from hand-out function to production, if all of us are productive this economy can grow. We need economic stimulus.”

Mutharika said the DPP “ will expand export base by diversifying our economy.”

The DPP torchbearer who was Minister of Foreign Affairs when Malawi lost donor support due to bad governance under his party’s rule, said donors should help Malawi “ with infrastructure so that we are self-reliant.”

UDF leader Atupele said developing the transport sector is key to growing the economy.

But the former Economic Planning Minister said the country “need to first stabilize the economy so that inflation goes down, interest rates are low to make saving of over K40billion a year.”

Tisintha’s Nnesa said Malawi need to move gradually from 40% to 35%dependence on donor aid.

“We should improve our mining and tourism sectors,” he suggested.

PPM’s Katsonga said consultation is key when coming up with initiatives in the economy, saying there should be deliberate policies to attract “genuine investors” and talked tough on corruption.

Katsonga’s brother, Davies pointed out that Green Belt Initiative which was a brainchild of late president Bingu wa Mutharika should be revived.

“We need to produce more. We need the help of experts so that we produce quality. “

On his part, UP’s Chisi said the country has concentrated much on money, “but what we need is infrastructure development. Then we can start producing.”

Petra’s Chibambo said: “We need win-win trade, industrialisation, increase tax base, set strict fiscal discipline and economic diversification is key.

Taking his turn, Chakwera said MCP will ensure “graduation from donor dependence systematically over 5 years.”

Organised by a consortium of organisations among them Malawi Electoral Commission, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and chaired by Media Institute of South Africa (Misa-Malawi) with funding from Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and UKAid, the final debate takes place in Blantyre on May 6.

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