Give President Peter Mutharika credit: He’s positively responded to critics of his administration’s novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic response strategy by forming an inclusive Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus and the launch of an emergency cash transfer programme for about one million people and small businesses, social and governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali has told Nyasa Times.
In an interview, Munthali said President Mutharika in his 15-minute televised address titled ‘Statement on Coronavirus Measures Updates’ on public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television on Tuesday evening “convincingly” managed to drive home a message which many wanted to hear.
“His speech largely addressed some of the key issues around adopting an inclusive response to Covid-19 and putting in some social protection measures as raised by Malawi Law Society, vice president Saulos Chilima, MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, politician Timothy Mtambo and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC),” said Munthali.
The governance commentator maintained that with lesser political legitimacy following the Constitutional Court ruling which declared Mutharika as not duly elected and nullified the May election results, any critical decision taken by the President in response to Covid-19 “would be treated with suspicion and not enjoy wider public support.”
He said: “It is therefore in such a context that the President ought to make sure that all key players including his political rivals are included and consulted in such a response.”
Mutharika has formed an inclusive Presidential Task Force on Coronavirus which replaces the Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 that has recently come under fire for alleged shortfalls in communicating critical technical health issues.
“Coming against a background of a growing public backlash against the Special Cabinet Committee, the public have huge expectations that the Presidential Committee shall not be just one of those that simply rubber stamps already conceived executive decisions but shall be a platform through which the President shall get sound counsel in his government response to the pandemic,” observed Munthali.
In his address, Mutharika announced the launch of an emergency cash transfer programme for about one million people and small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said eligible households will receive K35,000 ( about $40) monthly payment, matching the country’s minimum wage, through mobile cash transfer starting in May.
The commentator said beyond the President’s speech, one hopes that the authorities have thought through the implementation strategies.
“Identification of beneficiaries of cash transfers or loans has always been a challenge as it has often been subjected to politicisation.
“Otherwise, if the President would live the talk then certainly we should be on the right path in our response to Covid-19,” he said.
Giving his verdit on Mutharika’s address, the governance commentator said: “All in all, President Mutharika had a good day, and sounded Presidential.”
In the address, the President also condemned politicisation of the Covid-19 response and urged Malawians to embrace precautionary measures.
He added that those who deny coronavirus existence “must be sent to the mental hospital or to a lunatic asylum.”
Malawi has so far registered 36 coronavirus cases, including three deaths.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :