Style versus substance as Chakwera responds to Mutharika’s SONA

As expected, President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday delivered his second State of the Nation Address  (SONA) as he opened the fourth meeting in the 45th Session of Parliament.

Chakwera (L) with Mutharika ar Palriament: Says cashgate wearing a new robe under DPP

Chakwera (L) with Mutharika ar Palriament: Says cashgate wearing a new robe under DPP

The President’s major speech also marked the official opening of the 2015/16 Budget Meeting.

A lot has already been said about the speech and I will not dwell on analysing it—most people have already done that by now.
What interests me is the official response from the President’s top critic: Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Leader of Opposition.

Whether Mutharika’s address was successful or not depends on which side of the political divide you find yourself in or what your interests are in a speech that is really there to outline the broad policy framework of an administration for the next 12 months.

Certainly, Chakwera was not too impressed and delivered a stinging rebuttal with great sound bites—well, they sounded great until you started searching for the devil in the detail and found very little, if any.

My favourite from Chakwera was the following passage: “I don’t know about you, but between the promises of the President and the dreams of Malawians, I choose the dreams of Malawians.

I choose to dream with Malawians of a presidency for the people, not for the government. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country where farmers make more money from their crops than traders. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country where government salaries are paid punctually by the order of a system, not tardily by the orders of a President. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country whose cities have tarred roads and landscaped sidewalks, not dirty roads, potholes, and bushes.

I choose to dream with Malawians of a country whose cities are secure by night and clean by day, not littered by day and feared by night. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country in which the power of the sun and wind are harnessed through technology to extend the power grid to every Malawian home by 2064.

I choose to dream with Malawians of a country in which handouts for votes are illegal. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country in which there is no State broadcaster to poison Malawians with propaganda. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country in which mechanisms of governance credibility, development equality and democracy security are guaranteed by the Constitution. I choose to dream with Malawians of a country in which foreign aid for the government is a memory, employment for young people is a [not] luxury, prosperity for all is a destiny, and security for communities is a reality…”

If this piece of lofty rhetoric sounds eerily familiar, don’t be surprised, because it is.

It surely sounds like former president Joyce Banda’s two State of the Nation addresses that were full of dreams that turned into the nightmare that is Cashgate. She too had a lot of dreams and look where they took us.

That is what you get for not pinning people to be specific on what exactly they want to do and not being bewitched by musical voices and uplifting words that don’t translate into much.

I will not be surprised really if it turns out that Chakwera has followed Mrs. Banda’s footsteps of finding solace in American advisers who may probably have drafted the speech.

It is clear that Chakwera has a good speech writer who understands his boss’s gift to deliver speeches and no one is better than the retired reverend with an American accent when it comes to giving a good speech and compelling closing arguments. Remember the first presidential debate and how Chakwera wrapped up his case?

But Chakwera’s response to the President’s address was a campaign style political speech.

But, as they say, you campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. Chakwera can afford the poetry, Mutharika cannot—he is governing and, therefore, prose and nuance are a must.

Chakwera is obviously a man of style when it comes to speech delivery, but substance is miles away.

The passage I have quoted above is a very good summary of the Chakwera governing doctrine, but without specifics on how to achieve that dream, it all comes to naught and, if he happens to be allowed to govern next time, ends in disaster just like Mrs. Banda’s shrilling rhetoric.

And that is the difference. Mutharika’s speech may have been boring—his addresses have always been—but at least it has details of how to reach the destination he has, or thinks he has, charted for the country.

Chakwera has done a very fine job of pointing out the problems with the President’s speech and the country as a whole, but has done a very shoddy job of offering policy positions or prescriptions that draw parallels with what Mutharika has offered.
What kind of government in waiting is Chakwera’s MCP then?

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Henderson Tepeka

Some comments ar nonsense but we understand u.

Henderson Tepeka

Malawi needs government system differs 4rom political parties


We need only but one thing,no matter who rules-Economic growth at least 59%,look in RSA no matter who is ruling their economy is always better.

Camptain Romero

M’busa wa fake, angaziwe chani cha boma mmene limayendera, akuyesa kuyendesa mpingo kungafanane ndi kuyendesa boma eti , fokofuu

Big man in court

DPP and it’s leardership including Ephraim Munthali are very fooling and selfish.Shame on you!


Shame on you Ephraim, typical dpp bootlicker full of lies and distortions. Laz was perfect in detailing the dpp corruption and scandals that are being perpetuated. This thieving govt has done more harm than good in the 12mths it has been in power.

Dpp thugs are completely failing on good governance and that is the main cornerstone to measure success otherwise
nothing good comes out of it.


I agree there must be some banned substances in Ephraim Munthali’s cup, for him to write this rubbish. Northerners are expected to be respected objective writers. It makes you wonder when you see that there are some tumbukas who think like alomwe. Munthali’s article is shocking!


Foolish reporter who can hardly analyse issues. The speech by Dr. Chakwera has everything an upright mind can see as what is missing in the leadership and yet you claim there are no solutions. Just read what you have reproduced or go back to school because its too late for us to teach to understand English. If you are on DPP payroll, the best is to just enjoy your blood money otherwise we are all looking forward to one day be ruled by a credible government which is accountable to its citizens

Mr Ephraim Munthali, you are a disaster. Very stupid big time! I can’t believe you’re a journalist. What are you?!!!! I don’t have to analyze your write up. But I want you to explain to me why your APM is using my tax money to pay bank loans on behalf of Mulli and other DPP members. Is that the purpose of taxes in Malawi? Do you know the owner of MSB. This Bank serves rural areas where NBM, STD,FDH and even yourself can not go to do business. But people want services of a bank. Next time don’t take side… Read more »
special advisor

Wadada ‘Nthali! Mwatchera kumwezi, nkhanga zaona! Chakwera is only trying to do his job as much as APM is trying to do his. May be you’re also trying to do your job. But you seem to have used your artuculate writing and eloquence wrongly. I hope you are not under pressure from those that give you 50 pin envelopes and promises of senior positions in the civil service.

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