Opposition leader punches holes in SONA, says Chakwera an absent President

What President Lazarus Chakwera delivered last Friday does not come any close to a State of the Nation address (SONA), Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has said.
In his official response to the SONA, Nankhumwa explained that SONA is a yearly tradition when the President of a nation comes to  report on the status of the country whilst unveiling the government’s agenda for the coming year including proposing certain legislative measures to Parliament.
“It is clear that the speech that President Chakwera delivered in this August House lacked these key characteristics. Most likely, the President himself does not have a clue on the status of this nation. No wonder, the President failed to outline a clear agenda for his government in the coming year. That is not surprising, because you cannot provide a prescription without diagnosis.
“Madam Speaker, you diagnose first before prescription,” he said in his response entitled “Lies have short legs, talk is cheap”, delivered in Parliament on Monday, February 20, 2023.
Nankhumwa said what Malawians witnessed on Friday is a man “who is lost and does not know what direction to take and what options are available for him as President of this country”.
“We witnessed a man, who lacks self awareness; who cannot differentiate between a State President that he is and someone aspiring to be a State President. He is a President who is still promising three years down the line. instead of giving Malawians a status update of the country, is busy hallucinating what he thinks he will do. He is clearly stuck in the la-la land of speeches forgetting that he has a country to lead,” charged the Mulanje Central MP.
He said Malawians are now used to their President being absent on critical issues; of being told that their President did not know anything when serious decisions on national matters were made.
He said he has no doubt that President Chakwera does not know the pain that Malawians are going through under his leadership. He said the President admitted that the Affordable Input Program (AIP) has been a mess this season.
“Fine. However, he should have gone further to tell Malawians why the program came crashing down rather than glossing over the matter with niceties, including outlining figures that did not reflect the situation on the ground.
“Madam Speaker, in the 2022/2023 budget, Parliament allocated K109 billion for AIP.  Since that time, a series of events followed including the cancellation of local fertilizer supply contracts apparently because the government had secured  fertilizer donations from Morocco and Russia.
“The next thing, we learned that the government has been duped of K30 billion by conmen in its quest to buy fertilizer from a butchery in the UK. The Ministry of Agriculture denied the K30 billion figure, claiming the duped amount was just K750 million kwacha. Government is yet to recover this taxpayers money,” Nankhumwa said.
He also said there have been so many lies and dishonesty over the whole AIP program, which is why “some of us said from the onset that it was doomed to fail”.
“As the opposition, we helped in passing the budget, including advising the government on the design and implementation. But look at what they did. Ministers started flying around looking for fertilizers in bizarre places. Middlemen, including the President’s own relatives, made deals under the guise of looking for fertilizer, and huge sums of money were stolen.
“Madam Speaker, did we not end up buying fertilizer from a butchery?  And Instead of being swift and decisive, President Chakwera remained passive as though nothing happened. He swapped around the same faces that messed up the program in the first place hoping for different results. No, Mr President,” he said.
Other issues
The opposition leader also touched on other issues such as there being no clear direction on how to improve public infrastructure including roads; and no direction or explanation on how the country is going to deal with fuel issues like we experienced last year.
Nankhumwa also wondered if the President was aware that his SPC (Collen Zamba) was pressurizing Helen Buluma (former Nocma CEO) to pay a middleman called Mr Chief the sum of $ 20 million for doing nothing; that the SPC was summoned by Parliament to respond to the serious allegations of corruption made against her but she refused, and he did not reprimand her; and that in the SONA, he did not mention the Bridging Foundation, a foundation set to bring about 7 trillion Kwacha worth of grant to this country.
Said the opposition leader: “Is President Chakwera aware that 17 trucks of maize meant for NFRA from ADMARC were stolen by his close friend and sold to Tanzania and that his friend revealed that there are also ‘big’ people doing the same thing?
“Is President Chakwera aware that his government is failing to repatriate 376 Malawian female domestic workers stuck in Oman and facing various forms of human rights abuses?
“Is President Chakwera aware about  the elderly being tortured on a daily basis based on witchcraft allegations?
“Is President Chakwera aware that his government is collecting collateral from Malawians without disbursing loans under NEEF?
“Is President Chakwera aware that the relocation of government offices such as MEC, Immigration and MACRA from Blantyre to Lilongwe is economically suffocating Blantyre?
“Is President Chakwera aware that prolonged blackouts are crippling small businesses?
“Is President Chakwera aware that Malawi Defence Forces (MDF) soldiers get K1000 as allowance when they are on duty?
“Is President Chakwera aware that 800 US Dollars is deducted from MDF soldiers’ allowances when they go on peacekeeping missions abroad when they are supposed to receive 1,700 US Dollars per month?
“Is the President aware about the plight of ex-PTC workers, and that they have not been paid their surveillance payment? And that Malawian traders who have been supplying products and services to PTC have not received their money?”
In conclusion, he said the SONA was a compilation of platitudes and a wish list that unfortunately does not have any chance of being implemented.
“I am saying this based on the experience that Malawians have had under this government.
“When somebody says they have done something and spend hours explaining what they have done, it means they have done nothing. When you have done something, you shut up, the things you have done speak for themselves,” he said.

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