Presidential Running Mates Debate, an initiative of privately-owned Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), has exposed some knowledge gaps amongst the vice-presidential hopefuls in the various policies governing the sectors as well as the Constitution of Malawi, a governance expert has told Nyasa Times.
Three of the presidential running mates in the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections who took part in the debate at Chichiri International Conference Centre widely known as Comesa Hall in Blantyre were Muhammed Sidik Mia of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Frank Mwenifumbo of United Democratic Front (UDF) and Michael Usi from UTM Party.
Everton Chimulirenji of governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who chickened out in the first leg of debate in Lilongwe did not show up again to fulfil a DPP statement that the party’s presidential candidate Peter Mutharika and his partner will not attend any debate.
Jerry Jana of People’s Party (PP) who attended last week’s session pulled out following his presidential candidate Joyce Banda’s withdrawal from the race.
Asked by Nyasa Times to rate them, governance expert Makhumbo Munthali, said the trio fared well – much improved from the previous debate.
“But they need to do more if they are indeed to take Malawi to the promised land,” he said.
During the session, Usi, Mia and Mwenifumbo tackled various topics ranging from health, gender and women empowerment, the economy, governance and access to justice and human rights, among others.
Asked to give rating in term of scores, Munthali gave UDF’s Mwenefumbo 63%, MCP’s Mia 60% and Michael Usi 60%.
In his critique to the debate, Munthali said it was embarrassing to note that none of the the discussants showed some awareness of the previous Constitutional review conference which culminated into the production of the Report on the Constitutional Review by the Law Commission which has a number of proposals of areas to amend in our Constitution.
“The expectation was that these running mates would be able to debate the proposed areas of amendment in the Constitution, and be able to share their insights.
“While there were some few instances where UDF’s running mate was able to refer to some policies including SDG and MGDS III, generally all the running mates demonstrated little knowledge of the existing policies guiding the thematic areas they were debating on,” observed governance commentator Munthali.
Besides, Munthali continued that while tackling the issue of corruption the running mates seemed to be more concentrated on removing the powers of the President to appoint the Director of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) or recovering back on stolen public money, when in reality the issue of addressing corruption is complex with “prevention” (of corruption) being another important aspect towards curbing the vice.
“No running mate was able to state on how he would launch a national crusade against corruption,” pointed out Munthali.
Nonetheless, Munthali said the Blantyre session was a much improved debate where the running-mates were able to critique each other’s arguments while at the same time able to appreciate each other’s points of views where necessary.
“Yes, in some cases the debate got hot with some candidates almost losing their cool but then such moments were ably complemented with the civility which each of the three demonstrated towards the other as partly reflected on how they answered the last question. In fact it is such moments which made the debate exciting. You could even clearly see that the three running-mates were enjoying the debate,” he said.
On areas of improvement on the part of organisers, Munthali said time should be minimised as it was too long. A maximum of 2 hours for the running mates to debate is okay, he said.
Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College also described last night’s session as a real debate and not a question-and-answer affair as was the case at Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.
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