Social and political commentators in Malawi have described President Peter Mutharika’s State of Nation Address (SONA) delivered in Parliament on Tuesday as wanting and lacking a clear practical strategies to address the current economic hardships affecting the country.
In his address that marked the official opening of a nine weeks long Budget Meeting of Parliament in Lilongwe, President Mutharika indicated that his government was delivering on promises made upon assuming power following his party’s triumph in the May 20 2014 tripartite elections citing the introduction of the Public Sector Reforms and strengthening of public finance management instruments to avoid recurrence of Cashgate as some of the major promises his administration had fulfilled.
But critics argued that Mutharika’s speech was “mediocre”.
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) MP Joseph Njobvuyalema said ruling DPP members were clapping for mediocrity.
He said Mutharika’s address was only “a blowing of hot air and a repetition of the things that we have heard before.”
MCP spokeswoman Jessie Kabwila said Mutharika failed to articulate how his government will tackle food shortages.
The opposition say the speech does not offer any hope for Malawians and have vowed to take controversial issues like Malawi Savings Bank recapitalization back to the August House where the Legal Affairs Committee says it will present a report.
Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson Dr. Felix Chingota said the President’s speech lacked clarity..
“As PAC, we are passionate about the devolution of powers and in this case, empowering local authorities is essential. Since this was particularly mentioned by the President, we are happy. But I hope this is not just mere rhetoric. However, we are worried that the sale of MSB was conspicuously missing from the President’s address. Malawians expected that he would say something on this, but he did not, “said Chingota, a retired University of Malawi, Chancellor College Dean of Humanities and former Chairperson of CCAP General Synod.
The PAC chair further faulted the address for apparently failing to provide clear information on the controversy surrounding government’s apparent proposal of introducing user fees in public hospitals.
“As things stand today, we are not sure whether we will be paying if we go to seek medical attention from public hospitals,” said Chingota.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator Makhumbo Munthali indicated that while there were some gains registered by Mutharika over the year, the failure of his speech to include government’s progress on some of the hot issues that had characterized public debate was disappointing.
“We appreciate the positives registered by Mutharika’s regime including the reforms, trimming of cabinet and several others. However, we were also expectant to hear from the President on what specific steps his government has put in place to address some of the burning issues that had characterized public debate during his tenure including those on federalism, electoral systems [50+1 electoral system].
“It is a fact that the circumstances around May 20 Tripartite elections clearly demonstrate inadequacy of the electoral laws to safeguard the right to vote, ‘legitimacy to govern’ or the upholding of the elections of a leader by the majority. Free, fair and credible elections cannot be achieved by the current state of laws and mechanisms of administering elections in Malawi. Malawians remain concerned by government continued failure to act on or drive the electoral reform agenda including the proposed 50+1 electoral system as a matter of government’s priority.”
Munthali said Malawians were also expectant to hear from the President when the access to information bill will be presented before Parliament in a context of government’s continued unfulfilled promises on the same.
Reacting to Mutharika’s State of Nation Address, both of Malawi’s daily newspaper, The Nation and Daily Times editorial comments called for more action on Mutharika than mere rhetoric.
“We would also like to concur with those who have faulted the President’s speech for lacking focus and detail. Going forward, there is need for President Peter Mutharika to focus on key priorities which his administration should achieve during his first five years of office. These are achievements which should really make a huge difference in the lives of Malawians instead of rumbling about obvious issues that the ministries already do”, reads part of the Daily Times editorial comment.
The Nation editorial said: “In less than a year, the President said he has fulfilled the promises he made by introducing a lean cabinet, strengthening the public finance management and the public service reforms. This is commendable. But we would like to caution the President that the success of his administration will mainly be judged by the manner in which it implements the reforms launched in February this year.
“What we are saying is that yes, Mr President, you are taking steps in the right direction, but as some of the critics have observed, we are not yet convinced…But the bottom line, Mr President, is that your people need more action, not just words.”
The ruling party had high praise for President Mutharika’s state-of-the-nation address with DPP spokesman Francis Kasaila, who is also leader of government in parliament, saying Mutharika’s address is as an “action-oriented” speech.
Leaders of political parties started responding to the address on Wednesday afternoon.
Read Mutharika full address here: State of the Nation AddressFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :