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John Chisi, Peter Kuwani, Reverend Hardwick Kaliya in heated debate

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By Macdonald Thom & Rebecca Chimjeka:

UNITED—(Left-right) Chisi, Kaliya and Kuwani hold hands after the ebate

Former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha Tuesday failed to attend the second phase of presidential debate which took place at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe ahead of May 21 elections.

Chilumpha is the leader of Tikonze People’s Movement.

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There was uncertainty before the debate as, at first, only Professor John Chisi of Umodzi Party arrived at the venue at 5pm.

There was a sigh of relief, however, from the organisers after Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development arrived at the venue a few minutes before 6pm followed by independent candidate, Reverend Hardwick Kaliya.

At 6:13pm, director of ceremonies, Wisdom Chimgwede, looking at the poor attendance, invited all people present to occupy seats even those reserved for some dignitaries in front of the auditorium saying: “We are all VIPs today”.

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Chairperson of the Debate Taskforce, Teresa Ndanga, said Chilumpha had confirmed his availability for the debate.

Chilumpha could not be reached on his mobile phone as we went to press.

Nonetheless, the three candidates were involved in a heated debate, with interjections among them spicing up everything.

Moderator Grace Malera had from the onset told the three candidates that the debate would focus on health, agriculture, education and corruption.

On health, Chisi, who looked comfortable in answering questions, said all cases referred to hospitals outside the country would be treated in Malawi. He said there was need to change the health system.

However, Kaliya wondered how Chisi could implement that considering that he has ‘failed’ to bring the change in his capacity as Medical Council of Malawi member.

But Chisi said all what is needed is that people should vote for him, and everything would work.

When the moderator asked the candidates their views on hospital user fees, Chisi said the idea is not good.

“You cannot ask people to pay if they are not employed. Let us be committed to creating a reason for life. Let’s create systems which can work,” he said.

Kaliya said the user fees would infringe on people’s right to health care.

But Kuwani said: “Those who can, must pay. They should be in different categories.”

On agriculture, Chisi proposed that Admarc should be privatised to improve its efficiency.

But the idea did not go well with Kuwani, who described it as “witchcraft”.

“We will end up killing our farmers,” he said.

However, Chisi said the privatisation will be done on shareholding basis with the government getting 51 percent of the shares and the private sector 49 percent.

The candidates also outlined their vision on how to improve education standards in the country.

When Malera asked the candidates how they would deal with corruption, Kuwani said dealing with the problem should start now.

“We should deal with it at this time we are doing campaign. Where are other parties getting the money for campaign? This country has already been sold to those funding other parties’ campaign,” he said.

Chisi said handing heavy punishments to those found guilty of corruption would be one of the solutions.

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