Malawi President Joyce Banda on Wednesday said she has forgiven chiefs who were making disparaging remarks against her when she was virtually an opposition figure but urged the traditional leaders not to practise politics.
Speaking at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre as a special convening conference with the traditional leaders, President Banda said chiefs “are custodians of development.”
She urged them to be exemplary in their conduct and not worship the President as they were religiously doing with late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
“Chiefs are supposed to be exemplary, chiefs must be independent and principled,” said Banda.
“I will be very surprised when you abandon the people and start worshiping me,” she said
Banda said the chiefs must resist being manipulated by politicians.
“Sometimes we politicians compromise your position,” said Her Excellency Banda as she told some of the overzealous leaders who were used by former ruling DPP to castigate her on television that she has pardoned them.
The God-fearing Banda said she will not abuse the chiefs as a tool to gain a political advantage over rivals.
“I am not concerned with what you used to say on TVM. I will not do that myself.”
” I know you are always used by politicians like myself to settle political scores and spread hate messages to gain political mileage, this has to stop, stick to your roles as chiefs and help develop this country that’s all I ask of you” she said.
Commenting on the state of the nation, President Banda said she has inherited a worse economy from late Mutharika, saying she remains upbeat to turn things around.
“Things are really bad in the country, I have inherited nothing, but let us be courageous, let’s look into the future,” she said.
President Banda assured the chiefs that her government will continue with a highly successful seed and fertiliser programme in Malawi, one of late Mutharika’s signature programs.
“Some people were alleging that I will stop it. Let’s not mix politics and development,” said Banda, adding “My message is that subsidy will not end.”
The programme, which provides subsidies to small farmers, has been in place since 2004 and has boosted harvests in a country that has historically suffered from food shortages.
Britain has been supporting the programme but withdrew its aid after a spiralling diplomatic dispute between London and Lilongwe which started with a leaked cable that described late Mutharika as “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”.
President Banda told the chiefs that the diplomatic ties with Britain have been restored.
“I am optimistic that this will help us implement successfully the subsidy programme,” she pointed out
She warned chiefs against corruption in the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme and spoke against political manipulation of the program.
Banda promised that the number of farmers under the programme would be increased, so hunger could be mitigated in rural areas.
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