President Lazarus Chakwera on Friday delivered his first State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Parliament.
In the speech, he attempted to clearly outline his vision to restore Malawi’s glory.
In a candid 82-minute delivery full of colour and candour, the President vehemently rejected assertions that Malawi is a poor country, stating that our nation “is a country stripped of its God-given wealth and potential by syndicates of people in the public sector who exploit decades of bad government policies and practices to enrich themselves and their private sector accomplices”.
It is difficult to disagree with this assessment because presently, everything is wrong in this country and it is all down to the malaise of the last six years under the administration of Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Our people are still poor and fail to afford even the most basic of the essential necessities, especially in the rural areas and yes, it pains to know that this poverty of our people “is man-made, which means it can and must be unmade.”
The President is 100 percent correct in his assessment.
The million dollar question is; how do we change course?
We can spend hours on end until cows come home condemning DPP’s thieving and we have to, because they must be accountable for the economic atrocities they committed against Malawians.
Yet in the end, Malawians kicked Mutharika out of office on June 23 for precisely the same reason that they saw to the effect that the country was going nowhere under him and chose Chakwera to change course.
This is what Malawi is asking the President and his government.
This is the reason Malawians will show interest in what prescription Chakwera will come up with after this prognosis that poverty in our country is man-made.
Is the solution in the reforms that Chakwera’s Vice, Saulos Chilima, is championing as well and the President’s five pillars: servant leadership, uniting Malawi, prospering together, ending corruption, and rule of law?
Do the two mean business or these things that they are mentioning are just mere rhetoric as usual and that Malawians should not waste time to warm up to them as it has happened before?
The elephant in the room is the fight against corruption and Chakwera wanted to be on top of in the Sona.
He said as a demonstration of his commitment to ending corruption, his administration is making the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) fully independent and resourced to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.
The question is; did he go far enough in putting proposals to make ACB indeed fully independent?
ACB problems and solutions are no brainer. It is not just the financial independence it needs but even operational independence and this can only happen if the law governing this is reformed so that the bureau unshackles itself from the bondage of executive control.
As we speak, the bureau is an appendage of the Ministry of Justice and has to get permission from the Director of Public Prosecutions just to take a case to court.
This is one of the many jokes about ACB and end result is that the fight against the bad guys in Malawi has not really taken off or gain momentum since the bureau came into being in 1998.
Certainly there were positives in the speech that even the staunchest critic of the President would find difficult to oppose.
What can one say, for example, about the President’s promise to start attending Parliament and answer questions from the people’s representatives?
It is a good thing and fulfils the promise Chakwera made to Malawians that he will govern by the rule of law to answer members of Parliament (MP) s’ questions, the only second President in Malawi’s history to do so as required by the Constitution.
Talking of critics of the speech, there were obviously many takers in fulfilment of the decision Malawians took in 1993 that the country will be governed in line with plural politics.
This was embodied in the response to the Sona that Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa gave on Monday afternoon when he reminded Malawians of Tonse Alliance key promises of jobs, cheap fertilizer and passports fees, among other things.
Nankhumwa was merely performing his constitutional duty to hold a sitting President to account and show the nation that there is that alternative view that must also be considered.
That said, I found Nankhumwa’s response partly to be unnecessarily populist and reckless in nature to be in the interest of the public and nation well- being.
Simply put, it lacked sincerity in some aspects.
The Leader of the Opposition, for example, should be the last to accuse the President of tribalism, nepotism and on even transfer of some civil servants when his DPP has a bad record in that department.
Malawians cannot forget the fact that the DPP administration took tribalism to a different new highest level during its rule that some of its functionaries called Malawians who did not agree with them apelezi or siwathu not to be given public jobs or contracts.
In the end, Nankhumwa pathetically looked out of depth especially against someone who had perfected the art of Sona responses for five years as Leader of Opposition but now in the highest office in the land.
Thousands of words were spoken by both men on Friday and Monday.
As Malawians we can only wait if they meant well and we will get the restoration that was promised.