While the electorate showed political maturity as portrayed in the recent elections, our Members of Parliament continue to demonstrate the very tendencies that the country should move past.Instead of focusing on policy issues that affect the masses, they are wasting time and money on matters that are purely political to the detriment of ordinary Malawians. For instance Parliament rejected [at first] the Education Loan Bill to increase the university intake without reasonable justification in my view.
This bill [which later on was re-tabled and approved] is going to improve our long term social and economic well-being after investing in our young people. Individuals with university qualifications have comparatively better living standards than those who do not have. Understandably, some members wanted to have university infrastructure first before discussing the actual ‘student increase intake’. Yes, this may be worth an idea to explore but surely it was not a reason enough to defeat it, because the latter had little bearing on the actual intent of the bill.
Chancellor College started in Blantyre before building the Chirunga campus, former president Bakili Muluzi declared Mzuzu University on paper before Mzuzu Teachers College was upgraded, and we have a magnificent structure built by Bingu wa Muthalika in Thyolo that is yet to be utilized.
My point is that the intent of the bill was for the sole benefit of those who may find it very difficult to attain university education within the parameters of the current intake system, and yet members felt comfortable talking about the cabinet selection which in reality benefits the appointed ministers and their families, but not the deserving students as was the intent of the ‘lncreased Intake Bill’.
Like many, I have weighed in on the regionalism accusations against the presidents’ new cabinet. In my contribution, I indicated that the president appoints qualified cabinet ministers based on loyalty, trust and qualification and it is fair to say that seems to fit his selected team. Otherwise these tenets do not apply in a government of national unity where members outside the president’s own political party are part of ruling government. Unfortunately, we do not have that currently.
Regionalism or any other negative ism whether founded or not is good opposition political opportunity. To that effect, John Tembo joined the debate. Unfortunately the former opposition leader contradicted himself in his assessment by reminding us of the 1964 cabinet which included a number of ministers from the North in the likes of Kanyama Chiume, the Chisiza brothers, Orton Chirwa, Rose Chibambo, and Aleke Banda.
These ministers formed a bulk of the cabinet at the time when the northern region population was very small in proportion to the rest of the country. Yes, this may not fit today’s apparent definition of regionalism because the then president Kamuzu Banda was from the Centre, however regionalism and favouritism are synonymous in the sense that one class has to be favoured over the other. Should I assume therefore that the then president was favouring people from the North through the appointments Tembo mentioned?
What Tembo failed to address in his assessment is that those chosen to be in cabinet were the founding members of MCP who were qualified to be in that cabinet. Kamuzu rewarded his core members with cabinet positions. John Tembo therefore makes a case that a president can safely appoint more members from one region as long as they can perform.
Unlike Kamuzu Banda, Peter Muthalika comes from the same region as his political base, hence the political noise. John Tembo is the probably the only person who earned the most for his loyalty besides Mama Kadzamira from Kamuzu Banda. He was in public service at the pleasure of Kamuzu uninterrupted from independence till the fall of MCP during multiparty elections. As if that was not enough, Tembo presided as a Chairperson of many quasi government corporations. Does that mean that he was the only capable or qualified person to run those companies? The answer is a big NO, but probably he was both trusted and loyal.
Perhaps what Tembo needs to remember is that we are now in a multiparty system as such the respective parties will try to cement their positions. During the one party state when all belonged to the MCP, Kamuzu did not have to think twice about who to choose as long he thought they were qualified. Today, if development is seen to favour just some, it is the duty of the opposition to call the government out and correct those mistakes and make sure people remember all that when they vote next time.