President Lazarus Chakwera has defended his travel to the US for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and to Europe, saying he managed to secure investments for the economic development of Malawi.
Chakwera said this on Saturday during the Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Festival at Mbande Hill, saying a President goes abroad to represent the whole country, not to represent themselves or their parties.
“They carry the flag to represent the whole country, and it is bad for the country when the outside world sees us castigating our own leaders for representing us around the world, because it discourages foreign investors and development partners,” he said.
“Most of you know that over the past year, I and my officials have been negotiating a programme with the International Monetary Fund that is intended to relieve our country of the forex shortage that is affecting several countries in the region.
“We have successfully secured a Rapid Credit Facility that will inject US$88 million into our economy. This money is not for me, but for all Malawians — especially those of you who need forex to trade across the border.
“And yet there were some Malawians writing on social media telling the IMF not to give Malawi any money.
“When I went to the USA to secure investments for Malawi, including US$350 million from the US Government for the construction of roads, including roads here in the north, some Malawians said I should not go.
“When I went to Europe to negotiate a €125 million package of support for Malawi, which we finally signed yesterday and part of which will be used to provide food for those whose crops did not do well, some Malawians said I should not go.
“But all these trips abroad were in pursuit of resources Malawians need, and I want to thank all of you who supported my decision to press on, because that is what national unity looks like.”
Malawians, including the civil society organisation, strongly chastised Chakwera’s trip, saying the cost of travel for his and his entourage was very high.
It was reported — but not officially confirmed — that over US$21,000 was being spent on allowances per day for Chakwera delegation of 37 people, who were receiving US$560 (about K580,000) each per day in allowances with ministers receiving US$900 (nearly K1 million) per day for 24 days.
The reports said normally, many members of Chakwera’s delegation were supposed to receive US$280 (about K290,000) per day and ministers were required to receive US$450 (about K465,000) per day but the allowances were doubled because of a rise in cost of living in New York.
Several critics, including former President Peter and Malawi’s Catholic Bishops in their Pastoral Letter released this month, had condemned the government from undertaking the trip to UNGA in the middle of an economic crisis in Malawi.
The President was gave these examples to emphasize that cultural festivals, that include Karonga-Chitipa Cultural Festival, Chiwanja cha aYao, Mulhakho wa aLomwe and others are victories for the cause of uniting Malawians.
“National unity doesn’t mean that we all belong to the same tribe,” he said in his preamble. “I myself belong to a government that has officials from different tribes across the country, and yet no one is required to denounce their tribal culture to contribute to government affairs.
“And as President, I make sure to not look at tribal roots when appointing a person to a public office, because every public office in Government belongs to all Malawians, is funded by all Malawians, and exists to serve all Malawians.
“So national unity doesn’t mean denying or denouncing our tribal culture, which is why over the past few months I have been leading the nation in celebrating different tribal cultures of Malawi.”
He thus appealed to Malawians to “beware of those who castigate other Malawians for the tribe they belong to” as well as to “beware of those who cannot point out a fault with another Malawian without ascribing that fault to the tribe they belong to”.
“Because if tribal identity is not the foundation of our national unity, then it is wrong to use it as the foundation of national division. Similarly, national unity does not mean holding the same political views, because every Malawian is free to support any political party they want or none at all.
“I myself belong to a party that is in an alliance with other parties, whose members are spread across the whole country, but our unity is not based on belonging to the same party.
“There is no political party that owns its members like property, nor is there any political party that can force you to vote for it in an election, because every Malawian is free to join any party or leave it for another, and every Malawian is free to vote for any candidate of any party and any candidate who does not subscribe to a party.
“So beware of those who attack members of another party. Beware of those who take down the displayed flags and symbols of another party.”
He further said national unity also “doesn’t mean agreeing about what’s wrong with the country and how to fix it — because every Malawian is free to have their own opinion and free to peacefully and publicly disagree with the opinions expressed by others”.
“Just yesterday, there were a few hundred Malawians protesting in the Capital, and they exercised their freedom to state peacefully and publicly their opinion about what is wrong with the country and how to fix it.
“There is nothing wrong with that. And there are 19 million other Malawians who have an opinion of their own who were not part of those demonstrations, and there is nothing wrong with that either.
“Everyone is free to have an opinion and to express it peacefully and publicly, just as everyone else is free to disagree with that opinion. So beware of those who shout their opinion loudly but try to silence others from shouting their opinion loudly.
“And beware of those who say that their personal opinion is the opinion of all Malawians, because there is no person who speaks for all Malawians. All Malawians speak for themselves, which is why every Malawian who is an adult votes for themselves.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :