The dust is slowly settling following controversy surrounding the K4 billion constituency development projects allocation under Vote 120, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, passed by MPs during the Mid-term Budget Review meeting of Parliament recently.
However, there still remains some few ‘noises’ regarding the manner in which the bill was introduced in Parliament by Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe. Some people have faulted government for ‘ambushing’ MPs with bill, considering that it was not part of the actual 2017/18 National Budget, which was under review, as required under the Public Finance Management Act.
In his closing remarks, MCP President and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera accused the Minister of Finance, Gondwe and Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Kondwani Nankhumwa of corruption for allegedly flouting procedures in bringing to Parliament that bill. However, many commentators argue that Dr. Chakwera is being hypocritical considering he led his party in voting ‘yes’ in favour of the bill.
Chakwera called for an investigation into alleged corrupt act by Nankhumwa and Gondwe and went into a ‘political overdrive’, demanding that the two ministers resign.
But many people, including some of his MCP MPs, do not agree with the Man of God because that financial bill was duly debated and passed by the entire house, without any amendments. The resultant public debate on this matter has been immensely astonishing. It has demonstrated that political engagement in Malawi is steadily taking root and that Malawians have become more open in discussing their views without fear or favour.
Of course, some Malawians are in favour of a probe into the ministers’ possible misconduct while others think it is just a waste of time and resources to pursue that route because, in any case, the funds under discussion are meant for development projects and not individuals’ pockets.
Whichever side of the fence one is sitting, it is important that instead of spending much time and energy arguing over this matter, our politicians must find a common purpose to improving people’s livelihoods, especially among the rural and urban poor. Malawians are extremely fatigued by unconstructive and less progressive politics.
Many people would attest to the fact that Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe commands enormous respect both among his own DPP peers and the opposition for his astuteness in the management of public finances. Despite his advanced age, Gondwe is arguably one of the few most respected finance ministers to have emerged since independence in 1964.
Under Gondwe, the economy has stabilized to the astonishment of soothsayers who predicted economic doom for the country when the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power in 2014.
This was as a result of donors’ flight from the country following a multimillion dollar ‘cashgate’ scandal at Capital Hill during the reign of former President Joyce Banda and her People’s Party. The DPP government has relied on locally mobilized resources to manage and sustain the economy.
Four years down the line, the donors are back and the IMF has since resumed the Extended Credit Facility Programme with Malawi, thanks to Gondwe’s trustworthiness, astuteness, professional competence and experience. It would be a waste of strategic resource to lose a minister of such glittering track-record as Gondwe is just for mere political expediency.
On the other hand, since he was appointed Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Nankhumwa is a ‘new’ person, with different leadership perspectives. From his body language to his official utterances in the House, the youthful Mulanje Central legislator exudes a leader with gigantic responsibility and urgency to ensuring that Parliament undertakes to serve the people with maturity.
A fair analysis of Nankhumwa as Leader of Government Business in Parliament reveals that he holds no partisan attitude and that he is always accommodating to alternative political views from the opposition.
Nankhumwa recently told the media that he realizes that every idea, from the lowest to the highest, inside and outside Parliament and among all citizens, must be given due consideration so that all Malawians assume their rightful responsibility in nation building.
It is not a secret that before Nankhumwa came onto the scene, the august House was seriously fragmented and split down the middle, which undermined President Peter Mutharika’s vision of one nation. All that changed when the President appointed Nankhumwa to lead the entire house. He rose to the occasion and has successfully managed to unite the House.
He is the last person Malawians would want to see leave the scene at this ‘hour of need’ as propagated by the Leader of Opposition. Nankhumwa, Dr. Chakwera, Gondwe and all MPs have the bigger responsibility in tackling social and economic challenges that people in all corners of the country face.
Indeed, social and economic advancement does not come by ascribing to partisan politics. It is a show of political incompetence to dwell on pettiness at the expense of the larger national social and economic agenda.
Time is now that politicians, political parties and all Malawians must demolish walls of denigration and isolation. Indeed, it is a time for critical, progressive and constructive service to the nation for the well-being of all Malawians.
- The author is a political science student in Chicago, USA