On May 06 2015, the leader of MCP and opposition, Lazarus Chakwera, gave a response speech to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) of May 05 2015. The President’s SONA marked the opening of the 2015/2016 budget session.
In his speech, the Leader of Opposition did tackle a number of areas of national concern which the government needs to address, for which I sincerely congratulate him. For instance, he talked about the alleged MK 92 billion corruption scandal, the controversial MBS sale, the MK6 billion bailout for MBS loan defaulters, and the alarming deterioration of security where some members of the Police are also involved in crime.
He also did not hesitate to point out some mistakes government made the past financial year, including the March 11 2015 Lumbadzi Police event –graffiti by the President.
However, right from the preamble, the beauty of the speech of the Leader of Opposition is badly marred by bitterness and desire to tear apart the President’s SONA which is sadly the traditional approach of Malawi’s opposition. Throughout his speech, while the Leader of Opposition continues to tackle some areas of national interest, he continues to display unnecessary bitterness and attacks, and eventually, as far as am concerned, contradicts his preamble and the very source of his bitterness and discontentment with government, in his conclusion and Malawian dream.
Preoccupied by the sole purpose of sticking to traditional opposition of literally opposing government, the leader of opposition did not only mar his speech with attacks, but ignored very important areas which would have given his speech more substance and political maturity and present to the people of Malawi a transformed Opposition under his leadership:
For instance, the leader of opposition while acknowledging the need to congratulate the President as a matter of protocol, he still does not congratulate him because, he claims, he is overwhelmed by pity for suffering Malawians. But he forgets that it does not kill him to put politics aside, and congratulate the president for his one year of office, as a matter formality and goodwill, just to gesture some political maturity that even in discontentment he remains a statesman and respects the President with whom, he partners in running matters of the State.
The Leader of Opposition could have congratulated the President, that while millions continue to suffer, the President inherited a government whose 40% of annual budget is supported by donors, without donor support; but he has run it for one year on a Zero Aid Budget with constant availability of fuel and forex, and relatively manageable shortages of drugs, which is a huge improvement from last time when a similar budget was characterized by an economic catastrophe and related public protests.
Yes, Chakwera could have congratulated Mutharika, for a speedy, well planned and well implemented process of repatriation of Malawians from South Africa, during the Xenophobia where some Malawians lost their lives.
Chakwera could also have considered that some of the Malawians suffering are victims of a natural disaster of floods which affected more than 1million, to which plight, government responded well enough through food, cash and policy formulation.
The leader of opposition also clearly had unrealistic expectations from government, and this is where his conclusion and Malawian dream crashes with the reality that he should have considered in the first place. You see, he or whoever drafted the speech for him, seemed to have forgotten somewhere in process, that we are reflecting on the past 12 months, and projecting on the coming 12 months, because the Leader of Opposition laments over desperate living conditions of Malawians over the past 12 months, yet when it’s time for him to share his dream in his conclusion, he makes it very clear that Malawi will only achieve certain levels of living conditions in 2065.
In other words, the leader of opposition is fully aware that attention to a given time-frame matters when expecting realization of certain achievements from government. It is surprising therefore, that he expected all Malawians to have moved out of poverty that past 12 months.
If only Chakwera had given the SONA an objective analysis, and given Mutharika and government the credit they deserve for a job well done, and criticize them for the job poorly done, his speech would have been one of its kind in this century. But alas! Chakwera is quickly becoming another John Tembo. Perhaps, that’s the standard he is chasing to prove to MCP and Malawians that he has the balls for the opposition leadership. But he is swiftly drifting into the archaic politics where government and the opposition have a cat and mouse type of relationship, or if you loved cartoons, the Tom and Jerry type of relationship; where government plays cunning Jerry and the Opposition is the ruthless Tom. Its high time Malawian politics graduated