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Has the tone been set?

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The Tonse Alliance administration’s first 100 days have been described by some quarters as a mixed bag in terms of setting the tone for what the government intends to achieve in the five years that President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima have been given to govern this country.

Such assessments should not be strange; you seldom have a government that is entirely right or wrong in its actions during the first 100 days. In fact, it is the case throughout an administration’s time in power.

For Chakwera, it has even been a bit complicated in terms of assessing his administration’s performance during the first 100 days when one looks at the fact that he came to power in the midst of a crisis that has affected the whole world.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has brought some of the world’s most advanced economies to their knees and Malawi has not been spared. Obviously, various development plans have been put on hold as resources continue being channelled towards Covid-19 interventions.

Perhaps, that is why some of the promises that Chakwera and Chilima made when they were campaigning ahead of the court-ordered June 23 presidential election cannot be realistically fulfilled as soon as possible.

It appears most Malawians have been very much concerned with the promise that the two made that they would create one million jobs during the first year of their tenure. Of course, the one year is not yet over, but questions could be asked about whether it would be possible to fulfil that pledge in the current political and economic climate.

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Obviously, the government has to create a conducive environment for the creation of jobs because the private sector plays a crucial role in job creation. Chakwera seems to be keen on ensuring that the rubble of corruption— one element that frustrates investors and, therefore, minimises the job-creation space—is cleared. It is a good starting point.

Chakwera has also shown that he is willing to let the rule of law prevail, at least if what he did by appearing before Parliament to answer questions from lawmakers is anything to by. Whether the act achieved its larger purpose could be debate for another day; what matters is that the President respected the Constitution and did what his predecessors, apart from Bakili Muluzi’s one stint, terribly loathed.

On that again, he has set the tone in terms of respecting the Constitution which he swore to defend and uphold. What will be of interest is whether he will sustain the Parliament appearance.

On the other hand, Cabinet and board appointments did not meet the expectations of most Malawians as was clear from the reactions which they drew in various spheres including social media. The two sections have been a huge test on President Chakwera’s governing style.

His acknowledgement of the concerns from Malawians on some of his decisions shows that he is willing to make things right. But the kind of action that follows afterwards, as he has promised like the case of boards that there is an opportunity for more women to be included, is what matters most.

In fact, Malawians will now be more than eager before to see how the President ‘corrects’ what they perceive as elements that he did not do right.

It is also important to appreciate that we are living in an era where citizens are very actively involved in their governments’ affairs such that everything that their leaders do is scrutinised and opinions come out. It would be naive to imagine that a President can make decisions that will please everyone. That would essentially denote the death of democracy.

Perhaps, the Tonse Alliance administration can in the meantime be forgiven for failing to fulfil some of its campaign promises within reasonable periods. After all, what came out immediately after Chakwera had taken over the leadership mantle were revelations of depressing levels of fraud and corruption.

Getting things back on track again after such cataclysmic mess would surely take time. This is not to imply that the current administration should rest on its laurels and feel Malawians will let it off if it fails to live up to its promises.

All in all, there is some promise in the first 100 days that the Tonse Administration has been in power. Chakwera has launched a challenging campaign to make things work and it is his own test and the test of those who are assisting him in governing this country.

That he is coming out frequently to update the nation on what his administration is doing and answering some of the pressing questions from Malawians shows he appreciates that feedback is important in governance.

What will be important moving forward is whether the Tonse Alliance administration will build on the foundation that it has laid in various areas to make things better than before and whether it will correct what some quarters feel are mistakes.

While it is true that Chakwera inherited a system which, according to the information that is coming out, was heavily compromised, Malawians want him to show them that he is up to the task that he so fervently fought for.

So far, save for a few issues, it appears the right tone has been set. In the following years, pressure will be growing if the Tonse Administration fails to take advantage of the constructive counsel to keep improving on its governance style.

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