Civil society organisations as well as political parties have said President Peter Mutharika seems not to be in control and that the country is on autopilot.
The observations were made at a two-day meeting to reflect on Mutharika’s one year rule held in Salima ending yesterday.
Presidential advisor on NGOs, Mabvuto Bamusi, however defended the President, saying he is merely being democratic.
The CSOs have cited situations where cabinet ministers are taking conflicting positions including where Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe differed with Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa on taxing SMS in the national budget.
Martha Kwataine of the Health Equity Network wondered how this happened considering that before a budget is presented in Parliament it is presented before the cabinet.
“The Minister of Finance should have presented it to his cabinet colleagues where he would have indicated what was to be tabled including the issue of the 10 percent tax on SMS, then they would agree on this but what we are getting from the picture is that that step was not made probably because we have a minister who does things on his own or he has adopted a know-it-all attitude or he has been given too much powers to do what he wants,” she opined.
She said that is not what the people are looking for because that also reflects on a measure of lack of seriousness on the part of government.
“I am seeing an element of autopilot where the big man is not being in control. Speaking with honesty there have been conflicting statements coming from government not only on this case alone. This is embarrassing and we want the DPP government to grow up and we demand certain levels of maturity,” she said.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) parliamentarian Alekeni Menyani said from their perspective of Mutharika’s one year rule there are two sides.
“As a party we are disheartened that the principal is being managed by the agents. The party is leading the way while the president has been left behind and this is bringing inconsistencies,” he said.
Mary Makungwa Director of Women Affairs in the former ruling People’s Party said what she knows as a former cabinet minister is that before a cabinet meeting is called there are cabinet papers that are shared.
“So, everybody knows exactly what you are going to discuss and, therefore, for a minister to start going out and talking about things that were not ordinarily discussed in the cabinet meeting then we end with situations like one we are worried about now,” she said.
Khumbo Soko, of the Malawi Law Society said the fact that there are conflicting messages coming from the cabinet is a positive thing because it encourages democratic debate.
But Bamusi said judging President Mutharika is a matter of choice in terms of how people wish their President to behave.
“The current president position is one where he has given much liberty and flexibility and space to the cabinet ministers as much as possible,” he said.
Bamusi said the country is coming out of a situation where it was living under the concept of cabinet dictatorship.
“The President has taken an approach that provides much space to members of the cabinet to make sure that they express their discretion on matters that are related to their sectors. The current President is providing leadership from behind,” he said.
However, he said, this does not mean that the President has decided to take the country on an autopilot because the general guidance that the President provides to the nation is way much to do with the state of the nation address.
The event was organised by the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in partnership with Freedom House.
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