Three presidential candidates who took part in the second of the three-part 2019 Presidential Debates at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) auditorium in Lilongwe on Tuesday agreed that there was deep-rooted corruption in government and called for tough measures to root out the vice.
Moderator Grace Malera – former executive director of Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) – gave the panellists John Chisi (Umodzi Party), Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Development-MMD) and Reverend Kaliya (independent) three topics of agriculture, education and corruption to debate.
Chisi, Kuwani and Kaliya unanimously agreed that there was deep-rooted corruption in government affecting all the sectors and needed reforms.
On his part, Chisi said there is need to end bail system for people arrested and facing corruption charges, saying they should remain on remand in custody.
“There should be no bail for corruption cases, “said Chisi.
“We need to start treating corruption like murder cases,” he added.
Chisi also called for “lifestyle audits” of senior politicians and public officials as a way of combating public sector corruption.
“We need leaders with vision, employment for all, education for all and justice for all,” he said.
On his part, Reverend Kaliya said there is need for a political revolution against the current system which is infested with disease of graft.
“There is a cartel of selfish politicians we must break,” said Kaliya.
He added: “We need to change political leadership.”
Kuwani also said he is against the corruption cancer growing in government and backed “lifestyle audits” to curb the scourge.
During the night, presidential hopefuls also discussed a politically emotive issue to introduce user fees in public hospitals.
Chisi, currently board chairperson of Medical Council of Malawi, denounced the user fees in public hospitals, saying “ it was DPP manifesto” that contradicts the Universal Health Coverage Policy, which recommends that countries should reduce the burden on households when accessing healthcare.
“We should do things differently,” said Chisi, promising that when he takes over power all health cases referred to hospitals abroad would be treated in Malawi.
He spoke about addressing the inefficiencies in the health system, which includes corruption and wastage of resources.
Kaliya, who spoke of plan to introduce ambulance choppers for medical evacuations, said he is against hospital user-fees, arguing that such an attempt would disadvantage the poor.
“We have an impoverished population mostly in rural areas who cannot afford paying fees to be treated at hospital,” he said.
But Mbakuwaku’s Kuwani backed the hospital user fees, saying it could be a solution to the struggling health system which runs on a shoe-string budget.
“Those who can, must pay. They should be in different categories,” Mbakuwaku leader said.
Kuwani said user fees in public health facilities will improve service delivery.
Governance expert and political commentator Makhumbo Munthali who was part of the audience at BICC told Nyasa Times that Chisi and Kuwani had some interesting points that deserves special attention before the country decides whether to introduce user fees in hospitals or not.
“It is ironical to expect the very poor Malawians pay user fees when the issues such economic empowerment and growing levels of unemployment are not addressed as observed by Chisi,” said Munthali.
“We need to first to address this problem. As rightly observed by Mbakuwuka, it is weird to demand user fees in hospital when the quality of service delivery in hospitals remains poor,” he added.
The issue of user fees has remained sticky in the country. Available literature show that this emotive issue was partly the cause of the 1964 Cabinet crisis, when some ministers stood opposed to Kamuzu Banda’s suggestion to introduce public hospitals user fees.
On a lighter moment, Ras Chikomeni Chirwa, whose bid to run for presidency on an independent ticket was rejected by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for failing to fulfil requirements, including the K2 million nomination fees, was given the cheer by the handful audience as he entered the venue midway into the debate.
The finals series of the televised presidential debates will feature all candidates on Friday. President Peter Mutharika the flag bearer for the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who is running for a second and final five-year term in office, is shunning the debates.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :