Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, sresponse to the speech, which President Peter Mutharika delivered in Parliament on Friday, Full text;
Mr. Speaker Sir,
I had planned to begin by saying that I stand here on behalf of the Malawi Congress Party and the Opposition, but after listening to the address delivered here on Friday, 10th November 2017, by His Excellency the State President during the opening of the 1st Meeting of the 47th Session of Parliament, I realized that doing so would not suffice. This is because against all my hopes, the President’s address cemented and metastasized a depressing fact to which we must now all reconcile ourselves. That fact is that we Malawians are in the unenviable position of having a President and an Executive so incompetent at leading and so insensitive to the suffering of the people they govern that whenever any of us speaks here, we must speak not on behalf of our political parties, but at the behest of Malawians. I say to all the members of this House, including the three newly elected and sworn-in MCP parliamentarians: the honeymoon of by-electioneering and politicking is over.
The statement that President Mutharika made here three days ago while Malawians from Nsanje to Chitipa sink deeper into abject poverty was so shamelessly self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed, and self-delusional that this gathering is now a critical watershed moment for our nation. The hour has now come when speaking in this House on behalf of our parties is not enough. We must speak as men and women who love our country more than our camps; we must speak as men and women who serve our People more than our Parties; we must speak as men and women who fear the Maker more than the Ministers. We must speak boldly, even at the risk of being branded enemies of the state. We must speak truthfully, even at the risk of being maligned by a misguided mob of mercenaries masquerading as cadets.
We must do what the President fails to do whenever he comes here, that is to speak the truth to Malawians, for Malawians, and about Malawians. His speech, mistitled Rising Above macroeconomic stability, will go down in our nation’s history as the latest in a series of missed opportunities to directly and honestly address the deepening plight and delayed aspirations of Malawians. Now, Mr. Speaker Sir, if the President was ignorant of what our people’s plight and aspirations are, he would be forgiven for this failure, but ignorance is not an excuse a man of his learning and resources can take refuge in. He knows what our people are suffering under his leadership, because it makes front page headlines every week. He knows the dire living conditions his government is subjecting our people to, because we ourselves tell him on a regular basis in and outside this House.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the President knows that Malawians are frustrated and angered by his chronic failures of leadership, because it was only twenty-seven days ago that they voted in three constituency by-elections held in Nsanje-Lalanje, Lilongwe Msozi North, and Lilongwe City South East, all of which his party lost. And yet, instead of coming here with the kind of humility that shows that he has heard the voice and cries of the people, the President chose to come here to parade his malignant arrogance and to lecture Malawians represented here about how Parliament is not “Government”.
Instead of coming here to address the frustration and outcry Malawians expressed with unmistakable clarity in these by-elections, the President chose to come here to proclaim an imaginary litany of accomplishments that do not hold up under the scrutiny of basic and well-established facts. And as I said, ignorance of a problem that is a matter of fact may be forgiven, but ignoring the problem you know is there cannot. And in particular, there are four brutal facts that the President refuses to admit or address, and whatever the nature and substance of our deliberations in this sitting, these are facts we cannot afford to ignore.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the first brutal fact that the President and his Cabinet refuse to admit or address is that Malawians across the country are finding life miserable under his government. While the President spent much of his address painting a rosy picture of Malawi based on an academic selection of certain economic indicators, Malawians know that if life in Malawi is a rose, it is a rose whose petals are in the hands of the corrupt and powerful, while the rest scramble for the thorns they leave behind.
Mr. Speaker Sir, a case in point is his ill-timed lifting of the ban on exporting maize, which has been done so late that it will guarantee the enrichment of politically connected politicians and the impoverishment of our farmers. But instead of addressing this head on, the President came in here and falsely accused us of promoting the exportation of all the maize. Meanwhile, there is uncertainty about whether there will be another export ban next year, which makes farmers hesitant in their operations.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that the losses maize farmers have suffered as a result of the ill-timed export ban mean that many of them may struggle to buy farm inputs for growing maize in the 2017/18 season, since the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) only helps less than a third of the farmers affected. And such disastrous agricultural policies are not confined to the maize crop.
Mr. Speaker Sir, as I speak, pigeon pea farmers are now only able to sell their produce for a paltry K40 per kilogram, a 90% drop from what they could sell it for last year. And this was preventable, for we know that the Indian Government was eager to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with this government, but the Minister responsible failed to close the deal for nothing more than selfish reasons, reducing our farmers to beggars. What the President and his Government need to do now to stop the bleeding is to immediately communicate to farmers across the country about the crops they should grow in the next season and for which markets have already been earmarked.
Additionally, I call on Government to set aside funds in the next budget or the Mid-Year Budget review to purchase produce from smallholder farmers in a timely manner, as well as funds in the 2018/19 budget for a quota allocation to farmers to supply maize directly to the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) to protect them from the predatory actions of traders and merchants. These are the real solutions our people deserve to the real problems they have, not fictitious descriptions of how wonderful life is.
Similarly, Mr. Speaker Sir, while the President struts about reductions in the digits of the economy’s inflation and interest rates, Malawians are wrestling monthly with serious reductions in the digits and value of their income and revenue. Despite the debatable claims that the stability of the currency proves that all is well, one undebatable sign that Malawians are earning less and less is the fact that the Malawi Revenue Authority which collects taxes on what Malawians are earning in real terms missed its targets two months in a row, July and August 2017.
And when you look at the situation with our young people, the picture is quite grim and explains why our earning power as a nation is deteriorating. Young people cannot earn an income if they are not employed, but not only are millions of them unable to find jobs, but so many who had jobs are being laid off by companies that are downsizing to survive President Mutharika’s business-killing economy, such as construction companies that have stopped hiring in the wake of a severe cement shortage on the market.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the one silver lining in the midst of the misery of living in Mutharika’s economy is that he has taken a page out of late President Kamuzu Banda’s playbook of reserving enough grain stocks to stave off hunger. But 23 years after the dawn of democracy and 20 years after Kamuzu Banda, it is a shame that we are still led by people who cannot move our people’s prosperity beyond the ability to be fed by the Government.
Mr. Speaker Sir, truth be told, were it not for the gallant efforts of the Agriculture Committee of this House, under the able leadership of Hon. Member of Nsanje South West, to fight against concerted and executive attempts to corrupt the process of purchasing maize, the situation would have been much worse even on the food security front. But even with these embers of light in the dark, the fact remains that our people are living in misery, and it is sad and baffling that the President failed to admit or address it.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the second brutal fact that the President and his Cabinet refuse to admit or address is that he has neither done for Malawians what he said he would not what he claims he has. In the first place, his Government promised that the Electoral Reforms Bills that Malawians are demanding would be tabled during this sitting of Parliament, but to the dismay of all Malawians, the President did not even bother to explain why this promise is being tossed onto their mountainous pile of broken promises. Even though many hours and resources have already been invested by so many stakeholders in the electoral reforms process, the President did not even mention the bills.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the only reason why Lilongwe South has resuscitated the Private Member’s Bill on Electoral Reforms is because, even from the President’s speech, it is clear that you cannot trust this elusive and slippery government to do what it says. And I want to state in no uncertain terms that because the Electoral Reforms Bills are the will of the people, Government’s commitment to table them in this sitting of Parliament as promised is non-negotiable, failing which we will have no choice but to boycott proceedings as the people we represent have directed us to.
Mr. Speaker Sir, to see more evidence of the fact that this President has not done what he said he would or what he says he has, one needs to look no farther than his own manifesto launched on April 6, 2014. It is a manifesto of so many broken promises that it deserves to be called a manifesto of lies. Just last week, the local media was lamenting about the trail of broken promises that stain the pages of that manifesto as evidence that this President does everything except what he said he would do.
His promise to abolish the coupon system? Broken. His promise to lead a brand of politics without intimidation or dishonesty? Broken. His promise to subsidize cement and iron-sheets for millions of Malawians? Broken. His promise to build five universities? Broken. His promise to reduce the appointing powers of the President and devolve them to Parliament? Broken. His promise to resuscitate the Nsanje Port? Broken. His promise to double exports within his first term? Broken. His promise to have no tolerance of corruption in his government? Broken. His promise to provide health insurance for all civil servants? Broken. His promise to upgrade the teaching profession and make it attractive? Broken. His promise to pass a law on handouts? Broken. His promise to provide total security? Broken.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the number of promises President Mutharika has broken or failed to even attempt to fulfill three years into his term of office is so staggering that instead of informing the nation on the progress made on what he promised, he is always making speeches about the wonders he will perform in the future and blaming past regimes for his failure to get anything done in the meantime.
When the President spoke here on Friday, he even had the audacity to describe his government as “performing architectural wonders” in the construction of Mombera University, even though it has not been built. But perhaps the most insulting claim is his claim that he is investing in electricity to do what no other government has ever done since independence.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the irony is that the President himself admitted that Malawi’s installed capacity for electricity is 351 megawatts, generated by stations that were constructed or commissioned by the MCP, UDF, and PP regimes. This means that contrary to the President’s fantasies, the only governing party that is yet to add power to the grid while in office is his, and the previous regimes he blames for his failure to do likewise are the ones who constructed the electricity infrastructure that supplies him with uninterrupted electricity wherever he goes while Malawians endure 24 hour blackouts and months of waiting for over-priced back-up generators procured in a fraudulent manner. So in short, Mr. Speaker Sir, when the President stood before this honorable House to narrate what he is doing, there is every reason to believe that he was presenting a work of fiction.
However, what isn’t a work of fiction, Mr. Speaker Sir, is the third brutal fact that the President and his Cabinet refuse to admit or address; that this country is not surviving without donor aid like he claims it is. Not only is this claim demonstrably untrue, but in the same speech in which the President made this claim, he documented just how dependent we still are on donor aid. Rather than the presumptuous and pretentious attitude of applauding himself for the help our development partners continue to give us, the President should be leading by example in expressing gratitude to those whose aid continues to prop up the house of cards that he is living in.
For our part, Mr. Speaker Sir, we commend our development partners for their continued support, particularly the Global Fund and Partners, African Development Bank, the World Bank, GAVI, The Health Services Joint Fund supported by the German, UK, and Norwegian Governments, and the Indian Government.
It is very disingenuous for the President to receive donor aid for the country with one hand and then take credit for running the country without donor aid with the other. The fact is that our development and service programs continue to be dependent on foreign aid, grants, and loans, both on and off budget, not because they must, but because the President has failed to demonstrate that he is not a Prince of Thieves presiding over a kleptocracy.
Mr. Speaker Sir, this naturally brings us to the final brutal fact that the President and his Cabinet refuse to admit or address; that his government is the most corrupt and untruthful in recent memory. While he is always eager to comment on audit reports showing that wealth belonging to Malawians was stolen during the previous administration, the President refuses to even acknowledge the depressing state of corruption unearthed in various departments and ministries under his watch. Even when his own commission of enquiry into allegations of corrupt dealings by his then Minister of Agriculture, the President not only took months to remove him from Cabinet, and only under extreme public pressure, but the former Minister continues to enjoy a prominent position in the Democratic Progressive Party, as if corruption makes no difference.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the fact is that the President countenances corruption among his own ministers and is surrounded by aides who not only interfere with government processes for awarding contracts, but also ought to be investigated for corruption for all the inexplicable wealth they have amassed in less than 40 months. It is because the President, the Ministers, and the Presidential Aides continue to operate above our nation’s anti-corruption laws that some controlling officers, junior level accountants, civil servants, and department directors feel emboldened to continue looting with impunity, as is the case with some parliamentarians who are systematically abusing their Constituency Development Funds.
If the President really wants to prove that he is not a thief or to show that he does not tolerate or benefit from thievery, he should not just have come here with allegations that some MPs are abusing their CDFs. He should name the constituencies, name the culprits, state the amounts stolen, and present evidence as I did earlier this month when I exposed the fraud that is taking place in the procurement of Escom generators, perpetrated by the President’s own aides, a scandal he has yet to respond to or resolve.
And, Mr. Speaker Sir, that is not the only fraudulent deal happening under Mutharika’s watch that we are aware of. Indeed, the whole Democratic Progressive Party government reeks with the stench of corruption, and they cannot investigate it because criminals do not investigate themselves. Mr. Speaker Sir, if any Malawians think I am exaggerating, they should consider the following partial record:
1) The US$35 million maize acquisition from Zambia (MK25.6 Billion) raised serious issues of corruption according to the two reports from the two separate and independent enquiries.
2) The DPP championed the K577 billion Cashgate (reduced to K236 billion) which to date Mutharika is doing nothing about. To date nothing is being done about the 13 files that were reportedly handed over to the ACB and connecting 7 ministers to the MK577 billion Cashgate.
3) It is alleged that the DPP directly benefitted from the MK500 million that was lost from the Southern Region Water Board
4) It is alleged that the DPP and its functionaries benefitted from the MK5 billion ESCOM scandal involving dubious purchases hence blocking ACB from investigating the matter.
5) His ministers were also allegedly involved in the purported procurement of Malawi Army vehicles with Ashok Leyland involving US$54 million.
6) There are strong allegations about US$10 million embezzlement, money from Malawi Embassy in New York meant for our men in uniform
7) The MK3 billion released from MERA purportedly to buy maize through Admarc allegedly ended up in DPP. I urge this House to follow up on this to see if indeed maize was bought using this money.
8) The MK2 billion that has vanished from Teveta allegedly partly found its way to DPP, as the other part was allegedly shared among the operatives
9 ) The previous DPP Administration influenced senior officers to give loans to businessmen connected to their party. Then this DPP Government quickly sold the bank while promising the people of Malawi that it will collect the toxic loans for the bad debts, but up to this day nothing has been collected.
10) The health sector itself has not been spared from stories of abuse of resources, from the siphoning of funds from the National Aids Commission in the early days of this administration to the more recent scam about funds for allowances related to the Center for Disease Control.
Mr. Speaker Sir, these are just the examples we know of, and there is much more. Even when there was hope that the Vice President of Malawi would clean up the system after he was appointed to spearhead much needed Public Service Reforms, the President saw to it that his number two was unceremoniously removed from the leadership of that process. Indeed, it has become the preferred policy of this government to seem to be making progress instead of actually making progress. You see this most vividly in the break-neck speed at which this government is working to construct and rehabilitate roads, which looks like progress, except that the contracts are awarded fraudulently, the quality control measures are so bad that the roads develop potholes within a matter of months, and the costs are hiked up wastefully for self-enrichment purposes. Sadly, no matter where allegations of corruption and fraud spring up, anybody who asks about them never gets a straight answer because this government effected its divorce from the truth the day it took office.
Mr. Speaker Sir, these are the facts Malawians expect to hear from the lips of their president and these are the problems that Malawians want us in this House to find solutions for. Malawians want us to find solutions for these things because as they showed in the recent by-elections, they have awakened to the fact that the only leaders they can trust to work for their benefit are in this House, not at State House.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker Sir, Malawi is still a nation in mourning due to the loss of our 22 men in uniform. The loss of these dear lives was a loss not only to the immediate families but also to the nation at large. What is more saddening is that this tragedy befell us at a time we remember those soldiers of ours we lost in the World’s two major wars. May their departed souls rest in peace.
In the same vein, Mr. Speaker Sir, it is with great sadness that we note the many lives we have lost through abductions and killings of people with albinism. Besides, it is regrettable that innocent people have lost lives in the spate of the alleged blood suckers at the same time the nation has lost tens of hundreds of lives through road carnage. May their souls too rest in peace.
Mr. Speaker Sir and fellow Malawians, I thank you for listeningFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :