People’s Party, UDF outclass Kaliati on AU summit

The Capital Radio’s  Sunday Round-Table Discussion was all fireworks when the opposition People’s Party (PP), and the United Democratic Front (UDF) took to task Information and Civic Education Minister, Patricia Kaliati, to explain what were the benefits that would accrue to Malawi if the country hosted the African Union (AU) Summit in July this year.

PP Director of International Relations, Wallace Chawawa, PP Director of Religious Affairs Reverend Malani Mtonga and UDF executive member Humphrey Mvula pinned Kaliati to explain to Malawians what Malawians stand to benefit from hosting the huge event, spending millions of taxpayers’ money when the country faces a myriad of economic problems including the shortage of fuel, forex and drugs in public health institutions.

“We’re hosting the AU Summit, period,” retorted Kaliati, who is also the Director of Women in the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Bingu wa Mutharika.

On air: Kaliati tells Brian Banda 'I am not your wife'

She said although there were some problems in the country, her government was still determined to host the event because there are many benefits that will come with it, including contributing to the boosting of forex levels.

Kaliati said the dignitaries, who would include Heads of State and Government, will bring in forex which they will have to pay to the tourism and other concerned industries.

But Chawawa said past experience had shown that such events do not benefit Malawians but that on the contrary the Malawian taxpayer tends to cough even more than what was budgeted for. He cited Malawi’s holding of the AU Chairmanship recently whose intended budget of K500 million shoot up to K1 billion.

Kaliati dodged when she was asked by Brian Banda of Capital Radio, who was the anchor, to point out some of the benefits Malawi achieved for holding the AU Chairmanship, saying she was invited to talk about the forth coming AU Summit.

“Why didn’t you ask me that time (when Malawi was Chairman)? I am not your wife; I am your sister”, she said following Banda’s probing questions.

Chawawa, a former State House Chief of Staff and diplomat said assertions by government that the AU will meet the costs of Malawi hosting the AU Summit 100 percent were false as the People’s Party had made its own inquiries with the AU officials, who indicated that they would only contribute up to 70 percent.

He also said the Malawi Government ought to be prudent in the way it spends public money, saying there are projects like the elephant Nsanje Inland Project “which is a mere slab now” had cost a lot money but its not operational now.

“We were told that import costs would be reduced by 60 percent; can you tell me who has received any imports through that port,” wondered Chawawa.

On his part, Mvula said as a party, the UDF was not against Malawi hosting the AU Summit but rather that the timing was wrong because Malawi is currently going through difficult economic times.

“We urge on our government that it should put its priorities right; not upside down,” he said.

Rev. Mtonga said it did not make sense to host a “very costly summit” when government is ferrying to ferry essential medicines to the rural areas because of the scarcity of fuel and when the Government of Malawi is failing to address demands of the striking judicial staff whose demands total to K1.3 billion.

Some of the callers into the programme included ‘cheerleaders’ DPP spokesperson Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba and Foreign Affairs Minister Personal Assistant Ben Phiri. They both defended government’s plans to host the AU Summit, arguing it was part of the problem-solving initiatives.

People’s Party President and State Vice President Joyce Banda opened the can of worms when she recently pleaded with President Mutharika and his government to consider hosting the AU summit in future when the poor economic environment improves.

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