President Lazarus Chakwera on Thursday appeared before Parliament to answer questions from lawmakers in accordance with the Constitution and his campaign promises, saying the Tonse Alliance—which took over government after winning the court-sanctioned June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election — will deliver its electoral pledge to Malawians despite the impact of Covid-19 frustrating achievement of some of them.
But Chakwera pointed out that “promises cannot be fulfilled overnight,” saying his administration is now focused on ensurin that there is macroeconomic stability within the economic framework within which they will be operating after inheriting what he perceived a rotten system from the ousted former president Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) .
He said this when responding to his first question in the House from Nkhotakota North East Parliamentarian, Martha Lunji of DPP, who wanted to know the time of the commencement of the duty-free week and reduction of passport fees which was promised to be at K14,000.00 each passport.
Chakwera said it was important to remember the historical context of the promises he made to Malawians.
He said his government will fulfil the promises but want to do so “with sensitivity to the macro-economic conditions of Malawi.”
The President said Tonse Alliance is weathering the storm of bad contractual obligations from the previous administration and the staggered implementation strategy they have had to adopt in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Once we are ready to implement these promises, I will inform Malawians accordingly,” said the Chakwera.
The President said there has been wide range consultation to deal with the issues.
Chakwera ascended to the presidency as the torch-bearer of the Tonse Alliance, a grouping of nine political parties that came together with the primary objective of dislodging DPP. The alliance was formed following the judicial nullification of the presidential elections held in May 2019.
The Malawi leader said there is need for Malawians to know that there had been two presidential campaigns in the last two years, one in 2019 and another in 2020 and that in 2019 campaign, his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM Party contested separately and put forward separate manifestos, with MCP launching its manifesto on 9th March 2019, and UTM launching its manifesto on 23rd March 2019.
Chakwera said the promises had two manifestos with some promises in common and other promises that were unique.
He said promises that were similar included establishing a Universal Fertilizer Subsidy; subjecting Cabinet Ministers to performance contracts; making governance institutions like the Anti-Corruption Bureau, National Audit Office, and the Financial Intelligence Agency independent and operationalizing the Access to Information Act.
Others were – creating jobs for young people; promoting large-scale farming through mechanization; developing road and rail infrastructure through ambitious projects; boosting economic activity through value-addition and industrialization; and establishing a special school to train qualified Malawians for government and foreign service.
As a follow up question , Lunji asked the President if his team was not aware of the passport contractual agreements.
Chakwera, who quit the pulpit as president of Malawi Assemblies of God in 2013 to join frontline politics, said they were not aware of the agreements while assuring Parliament that all campaign promises will be fulfilled during his first term of administration which runs up to 2025 – the destination of the promised land of Canaan.
The President made several campaign promises, including creation of special economic zones, the ambitious infrastructure agenda which includes flagship roads, housing, railway, the free electricity and water connection and ultimately, the creation of one million job.
Lunji wanted Chakwera to have clear timelines for delivery of key promises.
As a reflection of the commitment, on 8 August 2020, during an address to the nation, Chakwera announced that he was working on delivering on the promise of taming Malawi’s presidency. This rhetoric and posturing appears to exude the necessary political will to finally review and, probably trim, presidential powers.
South Africa-based Malawian professor of law, Mwiza Jo Nkhata, noted in published article that although Chakwera, thus far, has been consistent in agitating for trimming presidential powers, specifics about the impending exercise have yet to emerge.
Nkhata, who teaches at University of the Free State, South Africa, argued that there is still uncertainty, therefore, as to how far reaching the planned reforms will be.
“Key to the planned reforms, however, should be the desire to enhance transparency and accountability in the operations of government at all levels.
“Chakwera should not make the mistake of being caught in pandering to the rhetoric of trimming presidential powers without a clear plan,” he wrote.
The Malawian law professor pointed out that the Constitution already establishes the primacy of transparency and accountability, among other values, and these should be used to inform the entire reform process.
This is a third time for the President to appear before Parliament to answer questions. He first appeared in the House for question time on September 10— the first time a Malawi president had honoured the constitutional requirement since the country’s second president in the democratic dispensation, Bakili Muluzi, did the same in the early days of his administration.
Before taking questions Chakwera led the Parliamentarians in observing a one minute silence in honour of the members who passed away due to the Covid -19 pandemic.
Some of the the departed include Minister of Transport Sidik Mia and Minister of Local Government, Lingson Belekanyama and Members of Parliament include John Chikalimba and James Bond Kamwambi.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :