Vocal human rights campaigners the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has questioned President Peter Mutharika’s sincerity over the recent suspension of his salary hike and that of his deputy pending the time the economy is on track, describing the action as a mere political tool to woe public sympathy in view of the ailing Malawi’s economy.
Reacting to the recent decision by President Mutharika and his deputy Saulos Chilima to suspend their respective salary hikes, CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo indicated that he was not surprised with this gesture as it has over the recent months become the President’s style of governance where, according to Mtambo, he has tended to display some ‘hypocritical tendencies’ of a ‘caring father’ when the reality on the ground has often shown a different picture.
CHRR boss cited August 2014’s Mutharika’s rejection of Minister’s pay hike proposal which despite being hailed by some quarters, ‘raised a lot of suspicion over a possible well-calculated move within his government echelons to portray a picture of a President who was walking his much-talked austerity talk’ in a context of tough economic conditions’.
“There are so many things which do not add up when you critically analyse the President and his deputy’s recent decision. For no doubt these decisions have been reactive [that is to the media revelations], rather than being proactive, a scenario that even raises more questions than answers,” Mtambo told Nyasa Times.
“Why did it have to take the President almost 2 months to suspend his pay hike after being aware that the new salaries were to be effected, as per Minister of Information, in October 2014 in order to demonstrate that he was a caring leader? How certain are we that if there were no such media exposition or revelations these new salaries the President and his deputy would have come out into the open as it is now? Is it because the media has exposed this that now the President, as part of image saving and an attempt to be seen as a caring President, wants to portray this hypocritical picture in the current tough economic the context? Why now? It’s for no doubt that a cloud of secrecy surrounded the issue, and if it were not for the media Malawians would have remained in the dark over the progress o the issue ,” wondered Mtambo.
CHRR boss however hinted that they welcomed the presidency gesture over their respective suspension but urged the President and his government to adopt a holistic suspension of the pay hike for President, Vice President, MPs and Cabinet.
“As CHRR, we welcome the decision to suspend these salary hikes for the President and Vice President. It’s our since hope that this ‘good’ gesture shall be extended to salary hikes of Cabinet and Parliamentarians,” the rights campaigner said.
However, he pointed out that it shouldn’t just be a question of voluntarily suspension as is the case with the President and the cabinet but government should issue a formal ‘decree’ suspending or stopping all the implementation or effecting of the new salary scale.
“We expect Mutharika’s regime to adopt a holistic approach, rather than the current selective one which raises more questions than answers. Government should suspend or stop the whole salary hike including those of MPs and Cabinet,” said Mtambo.
According to Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa the hikes were in line with the 2014/15 National Budget.