Mutharika must explain war threats—VP

Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda has said she would soon be writing the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue, Anglican retired Bishop Bernard Malango to seek a clarification from President Bingu wa Mutharika over his war-mongering remarks when he officially opened the 8th agriculture trade fair in Blantyre, Thursday.

In his characteristic militant discourse, Mutharika challenged the civil rights activists and any Malawian to a ‘war’ if they insist on taking to the streets against deteriorating social, economic and political order in the country.

“I have established the Presidential Contact Group on Dialogue. Some people are saying ‘no we don’t want this group.’ Tell me: what the hell do you want? …..Now, therefore, if you don’t want dialogue, tell me any day we can go to war, if that’s what you want ,” threatened Mutharika, ironically at the same time the United Nations-championed dialogue session underway in Lilongwe.

Vice President of Malawi, Joyce Banda: At her People's Party launch. Photo: Lusubilo Sichali/Nyasa Times

But officially launching her newly-registered political party, the People’s Party (PP) in Blantyre on Saturday, the state vice president said that she dashed to her bedroom and wept when she heard the president had made threats of a civil war.

“When I was asked by a journalist on Wednesday how I look at the committee set up by the president to dialogue with the civil society, I responded that let us give them a chance; we cannot dismiss them outright. But hardly, a day later, I learnt that the president made threats of war; I said dear Lord, what would be the reason for going to war with your own people,” said the  Vice President and PP leader.

“The media is here; I want you to understand me correctly on this one. I am not shouting at anybody; I am not blasting anybody but appealing to our Head of State on behalf of the people of Malawi to explain what he exactly meant, because when I look at the corpses in Libya, I am concerned that someone would wish an armed conflict erupts in Malawi,” she said, wondering “what does he (Mutharika) means?”

The state vice president admonished her critics over criticizing “her own government”, saying she swore “at the stadium” to protect and uphold the Republican Constitution and that if things get out of hand, she would be quick to raise the voice of reason.

“I cannot be enjoying tea within the confines of my official Mudi Residence when the ordinary citizens are suffering; then I would be a bad employee,” she said.

“ You employed me to serve you and my obligation is to ensure that your government, which you put in place, lives up to its constitutional obligation by ensuring that you enjoy the necessary economic, social and political rights,” Banda said, adding that she is ready to go to prison for pointing out the various ills of this government.

She bemoaned the tendency by government agents to snatch mandasi and foodstuffs from poor women vendors in the city and town streets.  Banda said if government was of the view that such business has some problems, the vendors were supposed to be given alternative sources of income.

“When they snatch mandasi from these helpless women, where do they take them to? I reckon they eat them,” said Banda to the amusement of the enthusiastic crowd.

The PP leader said this is the reason she set up the PP, which shall advocate and pursue economic, political and social policies that are friendly to the people of this country.

She said the PP would ensure private sector development and give much attention and support to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to create employment opportunities and economically empower local enterprises.

The state vice president also bemoaned the late payment of salaries to chiefs, teachers and other civil servants, with some going for three months without pay. She said she had never encountered this kind of thing “since my birth”.

“There are also rising cases of nepotism in the public service, which is having an adverse effect on productivity. Officers that feel discriminated against are demolarized and demotivated,” she said, observing that the Ngwazi, “I am talking of kamuzu Banda” used to say that there were no Nyakyusas; no Tumbukas; no Chewas; no Yaos; no Lomwes, no Sena “but that we were all Malawians”.

“This country belongs to all of us and not one particular ethnic group,” noted Banda.

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