In 1994, Malawians elected Bakili Muluzi as the first President in a multiparty democracy. Throughout his 10-year tenure in office, he had one most popular line as he addressed Malawians, which was, “Amalawi sachedwa kuyiwala”, meaning, “Malawians forget quickly”.
Whether or not Bakili Muluzi was right, today, Malawians seem to have already forgotten that not long ago, they were faced with dysfunctional leadership and bad governance of unimaginable proportions. No wonder they took to the streets across the country and protested against the blatant abuse of public resources, corruption, nepotism, executive arrogance, and sheer maladministration, among a litany of ills under former President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime.
Despite strong resistance by former President Mutharika and his henchmen against the protesters, which included physical intimidation and actual attacks, and politically-motivated arrests, Malawians never wavered but demanded change.
On 23 June 2020, following fresh presidential election, Malawians voted out Mutharika and ushered in President Reverend Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera who won at the back of servant leadership pledge.
One year after the fresh presidential election, some Malawians seem too impatient with President Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration, demanding that he delivers ‘Canaan’, immediately.
Others have gone a step further to insinuate that they are worse off now than they were slightly more than a year ago under former President Mutharika and his DPP regime.
Granted, Malawians may not have reached the ‘Promised Land’ yet but the President has articulated very well a number of reasons that are beyond government’s control, at least for now. However, the President is optimistic Canaan will be upon Malawians not far from now.
However, Malawians should not be quick to forget that former President Mutharika and his regime are the worst thing that ever happened to Malawi. There is no denying that the level of apprehension and anger among Malawians between 2018 and 2020 spoke volumes about a government and leadership that had lost direction and, therefore, the mandate to continue ruling.
Indeed, the former President Mutharika and the DPP had fashioned their government on region-driven tribal frivolities, and nepotism to perpetuate self-glorification, with reckless abandon.
The infamous Quota System that was advanced by former President Mutharika and his DPP regime was simply unacceptable not only for people of the northern region, but also the entire country because it denied people access to education on the basis of region or tribe in a democratic nation.
Mutharika and DPP governance ills
It is worthy reminding Malawians that under President Mutharika and DPP regime, Malawians were robbed of a public bank, MSB, in broad daylight. The regime then lied to Malawians that MSB was sold for the economic benefit of the country when, in fact, the bank was given away cheaply to one of the former President’s cronies for their individual benefit and that of the DPP.
It was during the time of former President Mutharika and the DPP that the food ration scandal took place and that the former President himself was implicated. An Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) leaked report had accused former President Mutharika of receiving a kickback amounting to K145 million from a K2.8 billion Kwacha worth of food ration contract.
It was under former President Mutharika that his own security aide amassed wealth apparently more than that of the President himself within five years. The said aide owns more than 80 motor vehicles, ranging from Mercedes Benzes and Range Rovers to Land Cruisers and Jeep Wranglers, as well as 21 properties, including residential houses and commercial buildings.
It was during the former President’s time that hundreds of tonnes of cement worth billions of Kwacha were imported into the country duty-free. The same security aide, a former State House Director General and a former Deputy Director General at the Malawi Revenue Authority are being accused of abusing former President Mutharika’s Tax Identification Number and his duty-free status to defraud government through the importation of cement duty-free.
It was during the DPP government that warrants of arrest were obtained from the Chief Resident Magistrate in Blantyre in 2016 against a high-ranking official of the DPP and a Malawian businessman of Asian origin following a racket involving millions of Kwacha of government money through Toyota Malawi. The concerned suspects were never arrested because they were politically connected.
A former CEO of Roads Authority had awarded to his own company a contract worth K217 million. No genuine action against the concerned individual was ever taken except for a smokescreen arrest by the ACB in June, 2017.
A former Chairman of Roads Authority who is a known personal friend of the Mutharika family, was involved in illegal award of road construction contracts, using the single source procurement process, to one preferred company in return for kickbacks.
A former CEO of TEVETA had been implicated in the embezzlement of billions of Malawi Kwacha at TEVETA but because he belongs to the former President’s tribe and a DPP cadre, nothing ever happened to him except for a smokescreen dismissal.
Indeed, under former President Mutharika, there was a deliberate policy to appoint less qualified and inexperienced people as Directors of Public Procurement to facilitate corrupt practices involving contracts in government and other public institutions where by law, the Director is required to provide the final seal of approval of “No Objection” for all major purchases and services.
It was under the DPP that party cadres were awarded billions of Kwacha of lucrative business contracts at Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Escom, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA), Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA), among other parastatals, without regard to the laid down government procurement regulations and standards.
It was during former President Mutharika’s time that the right qualification to get a lucrative government position in government was to belong to the President’s tribe or you must come from the southern region originally. Almost all employments, which were usually irregular, of almost all parastatal CEOs, Principal Secretaries (PSs), senior Army, Police, Prison, Intelligence and Immigration officers, public Board chairpersons and members, among others, followed that fashion.
Enter President Chakwera
President Chakwera and his administration have been around for barely 14 months but it is clearly evident that President Chakwera wants to ensure the best quality of life for Malawians.
It is crystal clear that President Chakwera is extremely concerned about the vicious cycle of corrupt politicians and public officers who have derailed the social and economic development of this country for decades at the expense of taxpayers. President Chakwera has been emphatic in his resolve to break this cycle.
President Chakwera’s personal desire is that all mistakes of the past should be corrected and shortcomings of the past remedied as a matter of urgency.
As a demonstration of his commitment to ending corruption, President Chakwera has made the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) fully independent and resourced to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. It is clearly evident that President Chakwera has removed any shred of political intervention in the operations of ACB, and indeed other investigative and governance institutions.
President Chakwera is clearly alert to the fact that Malawians want a government that facilitates balanced and equitable development, which ensures dignity for all, guarantees income, provides jobs – especially for the youth – and contributes to building confidence, promoting stability and ensuring integration into professional, social and family life, a goal to which all citizens aspire.
From the word go, President Chakwera has displayed strong determination to press ahead with governance and economic reforms and to lead by example, for those who are in charge of public affairs.
President Chakwera has resisted the temptation to victimize public officers based on their political party as has been the case with the previous administrations. Such victimization includes removing people from public positions or transferring them for being perceived to belong to another political party other than the ruling party.
A case in point is that having been in power of a year now, President Chakwera has retained Ambassadors and High Commissioners in foreign missions appointed by the predecessor regime such as Edward Sawerengera in Washington, USA and Charles Namondwe in China.
It is also worthy highlighting some notable achievements of President Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration during its first year in office as follows:
Affordable Input Program (AIP) reached 3.8 million farming households, the highest number of beneficiaries for any such subsidy programme in the history of Malawi.
- Preliminary Agricultural Production Estimates indicate that this year’s maize production increased by 18.3 percent over last year’s production: from 3.8 million metric tonnes in 2019/2020 season to over 4.5 million metric tonnes in 2020/2021 season due to the success of AIP.
- The 2020/2021 agriculture production level is 42.6 percent above a five-year average of 3.1 million metric tonnes.
- The tabling and passage of 8 Bills into law and the gazetting of over 100 subsidiary pieces of legislation.
- The digitization of Parliament’s operations to enable members to convene virtually.
- Operationalized the Access to Information Act to make Government accountable to the public in the spirit of servant leadership.
- Prosecuted over 1,170 cases in various courts across the country. Out of these cases, 114 were cases of crimes against persons with albinism of which 68 cases have been completed.
- Strengthened the Asset Forfeiture Unit under the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to confiscate all assets accrued from criminal activities.
- Vetted 363 disciplinary charges involving civil servants from various Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, including those interdicted for various offences.
- Contested over 1,546 civil cases in various courts and thereby saved MK3.9 billion in settlement claims on the closed files.
- Commenced the implementation of the Deceased Estate Management System to ensure beneficiaries can access their benefits timely, and the system has already served over 700 beneficiaries.
- Operationalized a Human Rights Section within the Ministry of Justice to implement the National Human Rights Action Plan and state party reporting.
- Secured the United Nations General Assembly’s vote to put Malawi on the Human Rights Council for the next three years.
- Recruiting additional lawyers to speed up the process of legislative drafting, civil litigation, administration of deceased estates, registration of companies, patents and intellectual property rights, prosecution of criminal cases and the provision of legal advice.
- Successfully rolled out a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination program.
- Increased the enrolment into the university from 36,000 students in the 2019/2020 academic year to 45,809.
- Started the construction of 10,000 houses for security institutions as follows: 4,000 for Malawi Defence Force, 4,000 for Malawi Police Service, 1,000 for Malawi Immigration Services and 1,000 for Malawi Prison Service.
- Implemented an Out of School Youth Functional Literacy Program at 174 learning centers to provide alternative learning opportunities to the youth in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Thyolo, Machinga, Nkhota-kota, Nkhata Bay, Salima, Dedza and Mangochi, with an enrollment of 5,200 learners.
- Commenced the construction of skills centres under the Jobs for Youth (J4Y) Project in 4 training institutions namely Gara Community Technical College (CTC) in Karonga, Mbandira CTC in Nkhotakota, Naminjiwa CTC in Phalombe and Neno Integrated Youth Development Centre.
- Commenced the construction of the Griffin Saenda Indoor Sports Complex at Area 48 in Lilongwe city, scheduled for completion by August, 2021.
- 293,000 poor households benefited through the Social Cash Transfer Programme and while 10,000 registered households benefitted from the Enhanced Public Works Programme.
- Cushioned approximately 160,000 households those who depend on a daily wage or petty trading to survive in the four cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu through cash transfers of K35, 000 each for 3 months between January and April 2021.
- The construction of the North Rukuru River flood protection structure in Karonga soon to be completed.
- Increased coverage of the population with safe drinking water in urban and town centers serviced by the Water Boards from 3.4 million to 3.6 million.
- The economy’s GDP rose from MK6.05 trillion (i.e. US$8.3 billion) to MK8.1 trillion (i.e. US$10.9 billion), representing a 34 percent jump in the size of the economy.
- Improved Malawi’s measure of debt sustainability by reduction of Malawi’s debt stock 62.1 percent of GDP to 45.7 percent.
- Crop production grew by 3.4 percent in 2020 reflecting the level of success brought about by the AIP.
- Reduced inflation form 9.8 percent in March 2020 to 9.4 percent in March 2021 with the annual average inflation projection for 2021/2022 being pegged at 8.4 percent despite the negative impact of Covid-19 on the economy globally.
- Implemented income-enhancing measures such as expansion of the tax-free band from MK45,000 to MK100,000 and also by increasing the minimum wage from MK35,000 per month to MK50,000 per month for workers other than domestic workers whose minimum wage was raised to MK38,000; and
- Completed the construction of a One-Stop Border Post at the Mchinji/Mwami-Zambia border which will ease cross border trade between Malawi and Zambia, among others.
Super Hi5 Agenda
President Chakwera and his administration embarked on a full-scale orientation of the public sector to the pillars of his SUPER Hi5 Agenda: Servant Leadership, Uniting Malawi, Prospering Together, Ending Corruption, and Rule of Law.
According to the President, this would happen across the public sector over the next year, beginning with controlling officers, to promote and inculcate the public sector reforms necessary for mind-set change and structural reforms as a catalyst for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To fast track this process, the Chakwera administration has already put in place the key performance indicators for ensuring that the President and his cabinet embody the SUPER Hi5 pillars by their example.
As a case in point, President Chakwera has pledged that his administration shall foster a culture of servant leadership within the Executive by proposing legislation to reduce powers of the presidency that stifle the development of human capital, governing institutions, and citizens’ supremacy.
Similarly, to advance government’s agenda for uniting Malawians, the President created the Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity. Through this ministry, the Chakwera administration is working on establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to complete the task left unfinished by the defunct National Compensation Tribunal. Within that ministry is also the establishment of a Malawi Peace Commission, supported by District Peace Committees in every district.
Because of the foregoing, it is crucial that all Malawians, without regard to politics, tribe or region of origin, must join hands with President Chakwera to ensure that Malawi is transformed into a well-developed middle to high-income economy as captured the ‘Malawi Vision 2063’ development agenda.
Disclaimer: The author is Director of Information, Malawi Ministry of Information. Views expressed in this article are not of Nyasa Times editorial but those of the author.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :