It is now a year since the Tonse-led administration, with President Lazarus Chakwera at the helm and Saulos Chilima as Vice President, assumed the reins of power. And just like we did after their first 100 days in office, we will endeavour to pick out the gains and possible areas that need to be worked on (did I hear somebody say ‘be blunt and call it unfulfilled promises’?).
Well, first and foremost, let me point out that not many are having a great time being in Malawi presently and evidently, the nine leaders of Tonse Alliance themselves who met by the lakeside this past week admitted, through their chosen spokesperson Kamuzu Chibambo, that indeed the economy is not doing justice to the people as the cost of living has gone through the roof, street vendors are having no joy and the corporate sector is equally having problems in figuring out the jigsaw puzzle that is the Malawi economy.
Since we are on the economy subject, how much has been achieved in as far as creation of 1 million jobs in the first year is concerned? As we speak, a lot of young people are roaming the streets, not out of sheer fun but because they have nothing better to do. This is despite having graduated from different universities and colleges. Yet, here we are; stuck with a lot of vacancies in the public sector, as some temporary teachers reminded us last week when they petitioned Parliament and for some reason, it appears the system quite favours the old guards, some of whom had to bounce back after they were tired and retired before being re-hired.
Perhaps the first box we can tick as a positive is that of maize production; we expect to have a bumper harvest after the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) paid dividends as most farmers managed to access the cheap farm inputs and put them to right use. The vigilance of the Agriculture Minister Lobin Lowe and his charges was quite impressive and on this one, the Tonse Alliance administration scored a vital point.
However, there is a ‘problem child’ in the agriculture sector bearing the name Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc). The sooner the Tonse Alliance-led administration, especially Lowe and company at the ministry level, take decisive steps regarding this entity the better. The other day we heard the Minister of Finance, Felix Mlusu, saying he made ‘arrangements” to finance Admarc with K95 billion to buy maize and other crops. Let us just hope that this would mark the beginning of a new chapter otherwise, this company has deteriorated and has over the years lost its significance to the very people it was meant to serve; Malawians. Gone are the days when Admarc would flood the market with, not 50 Kilogramme (Kg) but 90 Kg hessian bags of maize and Malawians would not even have to queue in long-winded lines to access it. Nowadays if one manages to buy even a mere Kg of the staple food at Admarc, you simply have to thank your lucky stars. Let me not regress, we are talking about the Tonse Alliance-led administration clocking a year in government.
The other area that the current administration has seemingly scored highly in is that of promoting good governance and rule of law. In tandem with his commitment to ‘clear the rubble’, Chakwera has initiated several changes that include rejuvenating the Public Sector Reforms (under the watch of Chilima), empowering oversight bodies such as Anti- Corruption Bureau with both human and financial resources, ordering an audit of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds (whose culprits Malawians are yet to see) when it mattered. There is still a long way to go, though, because a lot of parastatals are just ‘dead woods’ that are draining the public purse and allocations to the oversight bodies are but just a drop in the ocean.
We are yet to see signature infrastructure development projects that would solidly ‘announce’ the arrival of Tonse Alliance on the scene. Never mind the fact that it’s only been a year, we needed to start seeing some changes to the landscape. The sitting President has not hidden his admiration for the outstanding construction works carried out under the watch of former presidents Hastings Kamuzu Banda and late Bingu wa Mutharika… Well, there is no better time than now to start working on your own projects, Mr. President. Certainly, our cities could do with a facelift and the same goes for rural areas where for all the years we have been an independent nation, there is not even a good road network or vibrant trade centres to show as marks of progress.
President Chakwera, whether by design or default, has also, in my view, fared well in as far as cutting back on international trips is concerned. I think the notable ones he has undertaken were those to neighbouring countries, including the one where he went to Mozambique this past week for a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit for Heads of State and government.
But let me not start counting chickens before they hatch.
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).