Commentators question Chakwera’s sincerity and credibility over Labour Relations Bills

Having successfully swayed the planned nationwide anti-Labour Relations (Amendment) Bills of 2021 by the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera now faces a huge and painful task ahead.

And that task is to convince the doubting civil society organizations (CSOs), the international community and ordinary citizens that he is not complicit in the formulation and tabling of the Bills in Parliament.

When he met a delegation from MCTU on Wednesday, Chakwera is reported to have expressed shock and surprise that such retrogressive and anti-democracy Bills had not only found their way into the National Assembly, but also got the nod of the members of Parliament (MPs).

He assured the unionists that he would withhold his assent to the controversial Bills.

Prez Chakwera: Continues being misled by his technocrats -Pic by Roy Nkosi

But some quarters have started questioning the sincerity of the President on the matter.

Writing on his Facebook, renowned legal practitioner Khumbo Bonzoe Soko said while it is his right not to sign the passed Bills into law, he has problems with Chakwera’s attempt to create “some daylight between himself and the Bill”.

Soko argues that Bills are never presented in the House before Cabinet, which the President himself chairs, has had occasion to look at them and approve them.

“I don’t see how he can do that in our system. The Bill was a government one. It was sponsored by an Executive, which he heads. In approving this Bill, we must assume that the Bill was read and understood by members of the cabinet, including the President who chairs it,” enthuses the legal luminary.

“If the suggestion is that what was in the Bill was not known to the President, then we should be worried. Very worried indeed. For me it would be such a casual manner of conducting state business. If the heat has gotten to the President, if he has had a change of heart because of pressure from the Unions, all he needed to do was make a statement that said ‘look folks, we will take a fresh look at this thing.’ But not to try and disown the Bill. He simply can’t! Both as a matter of law and government practice,” challenges Soko.

Another commentator, Booker Matemvu, thinks Chakwera’s purported shock is an act of hypocrisy, which has potential to put his credibility at risk.

Matemvu accuses the President of lying to Malawians on different matters of national importance.

He notes that since he ascended to the echelons of power, Chakwera has turned to disown almost everything his right-hand men and women do in their service to the nation, stressing that this begs a question on who makes decisions on his behalf.

“The President is shocked with the passing, in Parliament, of the Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill. The bill was tabled by Government in the just ended seating of Parliament. The President was shocked with the shabby decorations and amounts paid for the Independence Celebrations. The President was shocked that a group of Ministers had organised Independence Celebrations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, planning to spend millions in taxpayers’ money when Malawians are struggling. The President was shocked that the MACRA and Egenco Boards spent millions on induction and capacity building in Dubai,” he writes.

Continues Matemvu, “The President was shocked that he was lied to that Hon Kandodo Ken had eaten Covid-19 money allocated to the Ministry of Labour. The President was angry and shocked that the Vice President had delayed submission of the Cabinet Assessment to help inform him decide on a new cabinet. The President was shocked that Malawians were lied to that the Cabinet would be reviewed after five months in office. The President is shocked that appointments of Ministers of Transport and Public Works; and Local Government have not been done six months after the demise of the previous ministers. The President is shocked that Malawians are not happy with the performance of the Tonse Government. Well, I am shocked that we seem to have elected a shocked president into office. It seems we should prepare ourselves for more shocks.”

One of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) parliamentarian confided in Nyasa Times this morning that Chakwera had actually expressed delight when the National Assembly passed the Bills on 7th July 2021.

“This is politics, my brother! The President knew everything and he is the one who pushed it through his MCP legislators,” said the legislator who asked for anonymity.

Meanwhile, MCTU has said it is happy with the decision Chakwera has made no to assent to the passed amended Labour Relations Bills.

The unions were scheduled to hold nationwide demonstrations to force the President not to assent and allow for more consultations and discussions with stakeholders on the matter.

MCTU President Charles Kumchenga told journalists at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Wednesday that his delegation met President Chakwera to discuss the Bills before he authorises it.

“We told him that the bill has been done in a hurry without thorough consultation hence it will infringe the rights of a worker in the country,” he said.

He added that the President was shocked and surprised to hear that there is no foundation work in terms of seeking views from the public including the union’s affiliations.

Kumchenga said Chakwera assured them that he will return the bill to Parliament for further discussion and consultations.

MCTU Secretary General Madalitso Njolomole said the body will not allow laws that infringe the rights of a worker to be passed and used in the country.

“We are a democratic country therefore, worker’s rights need to be exercised,” he said.

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