I must say I was very surprised by the position taken by the Alliance for (Aford), through its leader Enoch Chihana, regarding the new arrangement for political parties to align their manifestos with the Malawi2063 agenda.
The Aford Czar is on record to have told one of the daily papers that in as far his party is concerned; they will come up with their manifesto based on their own ideas regardless of whether it ties in well with Malawi 2063 Agenda or not.
I was taken aback because, for a long time, Malawians have been taken for a ride by politicians especially during campaign time where the electorate is sold the moon and the stars with the campaign promises, only to realise that they had been sold a fast one as the clock unwinds.
The move by Parliament therefore to amend the laws and compel political parties to align their manifestos to the national development blueprint in the form of Malawi2063 Agenda makes a lot of sense. From where I am standing, and I believe many would agree, this document somehow safeguards the interests of the ordinary citizen, who time and again, keeps wallowing in abject poverty while the politician laughs his or her way to the bank once given an endorsement through the ballot (though many behave as if they have been given a carte blanche).
Yes it is true that for a contest to be classified as one, teams must ably compete and for a minute, I was beginning to find a bit of sense in the question raised by Aford that; what reason is there to compete then if all the manifestos are tilted towards the Malawi 2063 agenda? However, I believe the various political parties would, despite all of them aligning to the national agenda, come up with different messages and strategies that would speak into Malawi 2063. It is possible to still compete while subscribing to the agenda benchmark, just like football teams compete in one contest while adhering to same rules and regulations; a thing that does not stop them from employing different tactics altogether to accomplish their mission.
I have often wondered why political parties have even failed to match their colourful manifestos over the years to some public documents which every person can have access to such as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) which normally carries pillars that indicate which areas of development will be prioritized.
Now is the time that our politicians started thinking broadly by putting the interests of Malawians at the pinnacle of their political life and not pushing selfish interests or other agenda. In fact, the kind of thinking demonstrated, in this regard by Aford, is the very reason why our public sector is still struggling to adjust fully to the recommendations that have been introduced under the Public Sector Reforms programme. Far from fighting the obvious, political parties such as Aford should have been pre-occupied on the ground with re-organising their structures and making inroads at the grassroot level to ensure that when election time comes, they should not be regarded as just a ‘regional’ party but should have their flag flying high across the country.
It is now time that the right to hold an opinion or enjoy freedom of expressions stopped being equated to selling the people dummies or ‘kites in the sky’.
Malawi is now a country on the move; the people have received an awakening and time for politicians to take them ‘for a ride’ is long gone. We want to see meaningful development and that should not start when the political parties have assumed power. They should demonstrate well beforehand that they are capable of delivering the goods that the electorate wants, and that they can do by passing the litmus test that the law has now set in front of them, and that is to align with the Malawi 2063 Agenda.
While we are on the subject of aligning with the development agenda, I was pretty impressed this week when the Malawi Economic Justice Network observed that even the national budget is misaligned to the first 10- year Malawi Implementation Plan (MIP-1) which seeks to take the country to a lower upper middle income status by 2030. It goes to show that, as a country, we are not yet fully committed to fast-track the turnaround of our economic fortunes.
If indeed there has been a mismatch in the budget of the anticipated funding towards industrialization and urbanization, which are catalysts for economic development, then it is a great disservice to the millions of Malawians who are feeling the pinch of the tough times and grappling are with poverty.
It is high time the various documents we have started speaking to each other, especially pertaining to the Malawi 2063 agenda, which has been touted as the gateway to economic prosperity and is more pragmatic than its predecessor Vision 2020.
To Aford, my message is; be for the people.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).