Presidential aspirant Atupele Muluzi, the 33 year-old son of former President Bakili Muluzi, told a mass rally in Blantyre on Sunday that Malawians are suffering and said he wants to work with a team of all talents to be on a “rescue mission” to haul the country back from a deepening economic crisis .
The lawmaker had to wait for a High Court judge to lift the injunction which was obtained by another faction in the former ruling UDF party stopping his rally. Armed Police were at the venue of the rally, Njamba Freedom Park and kept turning away supporters.
Despite the heavy police presence and intimidation, thousands cheering supporters turned up — many on foot — to hear the presidential hopeful who addressed the rally when the injunction was lifted by the court midday.
Cost of living
Atupele, in his address, noted that people in the country are suffering under the worse economic crisis.
“This suffering is everywhere, from the urban areas as well as rural areas. This suffering has no political party face. We are all suffering whether we are in UDF, DPP, MCP we are all suffering,” he said.
“The cost of living has gone up and yet the incomes for the majority of our people remain miserable. Bus fares have gone up. The price of maize has gone up; bread, sugar, salt and almost everything and yet many people cannot afford these basic commodities,” said the lawmaker.
“At times when you go into town you would think there is a big walk and yet these are workers literally walking to work place because they cannot afford a bus fare,” said Atupele.
“From the persistent power outages, water problems, fuel problems, scarcity of Forex, unemployment and money is hard to come by,” he said.
Atupele said there have to be swift reforms to ensure the country recovers from its ailing economy.
He called for reforms in governance and that there should be much work to improve diplomatic relations with traditional partners.
“We must improve our relations with all our regional partners and traditional donors. These relationships are extremely important. Regional integration is also key to national development,” he said.
He said the issue of poor governance is not only the concern of donors but all Malawians.
“The issue of bad laws or bad governance is a concern of ordinary Malawians and not donors alone. Government should sort out this problem and win back the confidence and support of our traditional donors,” Atupele said.
He said the zero deficit budget has been a “painful experience” for ordinary Malawians, hence the need to win back donor support.
“If life is hard for those in employment what about for those without a regular income?”
Civil servants pay up
The deputy leader of UDF in parliament also called on government to restructure the way it pays the civil servants, saying their income is out of sync with the economic situation.
“A graduate from the University of Malawi in 1988 earned around K800 per month. At that time One Malawi Kwacha was equivalent to One British Pound. That translated into 800 British pounds per month. Fast forward to 2012. The same graduate is receiving K60, 000 per month. When you convert the 800 British pounds to the current rate of the kwacha, that same graduate should have been receiving K240, 000 per month,” he said.
Adding: “In terms of real monetary value a graduate is worse off and is receiving one quarter of the real salary.”
He said the Civil Servants in Malawi are the least paid and the most highly taxed in the SADC region.
Atupele said government should create job opportunities to school leavers, particulary the youth.
“They say that there are 169,000 civil servants but that 22,000 are chiefs. If you remove the chiefs and 60,000 teachers from the number, you are left with 89,000 civil servants comprising of nurses, Army personnel and employees in statutory corporations.
“In terms of delivery of services to the Malawian population of 14 Million this is not compatible. For instance, you will see one medical assistant serving a huge population. It is the same for our teachers.
“Our service delivery ratio is notcommiserate with our population. We have to look at the whole service delivery ratio for all Malawians.”
Atupele said Capital Hill need to cut down on waste in government to increase employment and better delivery of services.
Atupele said there are some people who will choose not to understand or appreciate the desire for change .
“When our fathers were in the 1990’s fighting for change they were called, osapola pa nchombo, a bongololo and confusionists. However despite all this, things changed from dictatorship to democracy.
“Today despite attaining democracy our country is broken and our politics is outdated. We remain poor and many of you want to see a difference in your lives. Generally people want to move in a direction of change.”
He continued: “For the world is changing, Africa is changing. We too want to be a part of that change. And those of us who are saying that we need to change our politics, we need to change how we create and distribute wealth.”
Atupele sent the crowd into stichets of laughter when he said those calling for change in the way we deliver services in education, health, agriculture and infrastructure development are now being labelled “chickens” and micked the chickens cry, in apparent jibe on President Bingu wa Mutharika remarks.
“Women, youths and all concerned people must rise to the occasion and work together in finding solutions to these problems. But one thing for sure is that these problems are as a result of poor leadership in this country,” he said.
“This is the time we must tell each other the truth that we need to change our leadership style if we are to end these problems. We must not blame anybody for these problems when we cannot listen to advice. There was no need for these problems. They were self inflicted. “
Atupele said “each one of us has a responsibility to ensure that we demand better. We deserve better. And for that to happen we must join hands to make these demands.
“Leadership is all about team work and not one man show. We serve you and not the other way round.”
He said: “ We must have a plan for Malawi if we are to resolve the problems in the country. We cannot go into the next elections without a plan.”
Atupele said he has a proposal for a plan and would like to unveil it within the next few weeks “in order to stimulate debate.”
Atupele wants to be nomated as presidential candidate of UDF, which was in power from 1994 to 2004 under Baki Muluzi, but the party has been rocked with internal power struggle since his father announce at the end of 2009, his retirement from politics.
He left the interim leadership of the party in the hands of Friday Jumbe but he was blamed for not following proper procedures in handing over power.
Later on another camp emerged which was led by George Nga Mtafu. The leadership wrangles has split the party into two factions.
Commenting on the ongoing in the UDF, Atupele said the party cannot afford to continue with conflicts at the time that Malawians should be looking to them as the alternative government.
“As I have said time and again that we can never be trusted to run government if we cannot demonstrate that we are good leaders in our party,” he said.
“I know for sure that it is possible that on some occasions where there are two or three people disagreements can occur. When such things occur as members of the same family the best thing to do is to sit down and discuss as family members,” said Atupele.
He added: “Our enemies are taking advantage of our disunity; the media is making news out of us. These things must come to an end. “
Atupele said he is personally committed to any efforts “that will bring unity and love for one another in the party” and then as a united front “work tirelessly to redeem Malawians from the problems that this country is facing.”
He nonetheless said the power to elect leaders rests in the membership of the party.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :