The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has taken the Tonse Alliance-led government to task for allegedly betraying the trust of Malawians on almost all the social and economic fronts.
The coalition has also observed that the Tonse administration is losing direction, stressing that there are early signs that President Lazarus Chakwera and his partners are unwilling to crack down on corruption as hard as they promised.
“The administration also appears clueless on how to grow the economy, in creating the promised one million jobs and in sharply cutting poverty. But HRDC will not allow them to get away with malfeasance. We will use every legal means possible to ensure that the Tonse Alliance-led government is held accountable and forced, if need be, to fulfill its promises, through constitutional means,” said HRDC executive member Reverend MacDonald Sembereka.
Sembereka was among HRDC members who addressed journalists in Lilongwe on Sunday to update Malawians on its assessment of the government over the six months of its regime.
Others were the coalition’s chairperson Gift Trapence, Regional Chairperson for the North, Happy Mhango, and Regional Chairperson for the East, Masauko Thawe.
Sembereka stated that the Tonse administration has displayed little intention of breaking the elite’s hegemony and is no longer showing enough interest to stop the land grab by a cabal of rich and politically connected individuals and companies.
“They have found power too sweet to relinquish some and they could soon stop pretending that it wants to help Malawians get out of their economic pains,” he said.
But HRDC has acknowledged the strides the Tonse government has made in fulfilling its promises. Among others, the coalition pats the back of the Tonse for investigating and arresting some of the key figures in the Peter Mutharika administration on corruption allegations.
It also congratulated the Chakwera presidency for rolling out—despite challenges—the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) at the campaign promised price of K4 495 per 50 kg bag of fertilizer.
“With 4.3 million beneficiary households, the AIP covers at least four times the number of poor families that the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) used to reach. The Tonse Alliance-led Government has also implemented the increase of the tax-free income band from K45 000 to K100 000, helping to unlock disposable income; embarked on the Public Sector Reforms Programme,” said Sembereka.
He also commended the Tonse government for enacting the Access to Information (ATI) law after four successive administrations refused to do so.
Sembereka added that on the individual level, Chakwera has fulfilled his own pledge to go to Parliament to answer questions from legislators so that he directly accounts to the people through their elected representatives.
“Despite these early gains, there are some early warning signs that what was promised to be a new day might have actually been a false dawn. The voices of discontent are rising among Malawians and we too, as HRDC, have seen it. This includes growing concern on the fight against corruption that appears to be easing back into business-as-usual mode; the slowness in decision-making that is proving costly, as evidenced by the unprecedented 28 percent fuel price hike that appears to have accumulated over time; and the lack of seriousness in getting value from the mining industry,” he said.
He also chided the government for the alleged amateurish and corrupt management of AIP; the lack of a clear roadmap for the reform drive and the creation of one million jobs.
Sembereka stated that Malawians are also frustrated because of the broken promises on free electricity and water connections as well reductions in passport.
“These broken promises are a painful reminder of just how the political elite quickly forgets how they got into their positions. In a nutshell, there are troubling signs that the Tonse Alliance Administration is on course to betray the trust of Malawians. Clearly, there is little improvement so far in several sectors,” he narrated.
HRDC has cited a number of areas where the Tonse Alliance administration has alleged failed Malawians.
Among them include the fight against corruption, fuel price hike and return of blackouts, mining deals, AIP woes, lack of clear roadmap in the implementation of Public Sector Reforms Programme, land management, loans and the one million jobs promise.
The coalition has further challenged the Tonse government to decisively deal with individuals and organizations who have been evading taxes.
Sembereka noted that the loans programme, while higher than the previous package, has yet to start trickling back to the intended beneficiaries largely because of poor leadership in developing operational manuals, guidelines and systems that ensure that the right people get the right financial support for enterprises whose objectives speak to the fund.
He questioned the sincerity of the government, observing that there is nothing on the ground that shows progress on the creation of one million jobs in a year—another Tonse Alliance promise that is breaking the hearts of young Malawians who had so much hope that the new Administration would make their lives better.
“HRDC demands that the Ministry of Labour not only provides a road map for creating these jobs by the end of January 2021, but also provide evidence of jobs created so far, which should be at least 500 000 since half a year has passed,” he said.
On the tax evasion, Sembereka claimed they have evidence to the effect that some Asian-owned companies and individuals have been avoiding payment of these taxes.
“Some have either run away or were deported. With the change of the government, it has come to our attention that some are using senior Tonse officials to come back to plunder in Malawi, avoid tax and externalize our wealth. We would like to warn government, that as HRDC we are watching and monitoring these conspiracies and we will expose them,” he said.
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