President Lazarus Chakwera Wednesday appeared, once again, to have an easy time responding to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) when he appeared before them in the august House where his first act was to condemn cases of mob justice, defilement and general lawlessness in the country.
Chakwera had returned to face the lawmakers having first done so on September 10 during which he addressed MPs’ questions on his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Yesterday’s atmosphere in the chamber did not look as charged as it was during the President’s first appearance—with a few lawmakers having the enthusiasm to fire supplementary questions as the President insisted a better Malawi for all is possible.
One of the sticky issues which cropped up during Chakwera’s question time was his insistence that Malawi would open an embassy in Israel in the face of an existing United Nations (UN) resolution which urges nations to avoid recognising Jerusalem as the capital of the Middle-Eastern country.
The question was posed by Zomba Chisi MP, Mark Botomani, who wondered why Malawi had decided to be the first African country to have an embassy in Jerusalem.
In his response, Chakwera said the country conducts its policy for the primary benefit of the nation and its citizens and that the policy which focuses on the economy and diplomacy was reviewed in August 2017.
“Israel is among our strongest partners having established our diplomatic relations in 1964.The idea of re-energising the existing relations with Israel and establish residential diplomatic missions should not be regarded as something new in the foreign policy,” the President said.
He also stressed that Israel is a leader in many endeavours including science and technology, agriculture, human development and economic transformation which Malawi seeks to learn from.
The President added that Malawi is a sovereign state and lives in a global village and that relations between the states are governed by the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and principle statutes of UN, hence the decision on whom the country is associated with are matters of national interest.
On the contentious land bills that were presented to Parliament, Chitipa South MP Werani Chilenga sought the way forward as the then opposition MPs led by Chakwera were against the bills especially on the sale of land to foreigners, existence of freehold land and payment of fees for customary estates.
Chakwera said there is need to reform and enforce the laws in order to end the land crisis in the country.
He directed the Ministry of Lands to review all land laws, to address the flaws in the legislation and to be ready with amendments for the next meeting of Parliament.
“To help in the review process, I will see to it that the pilot phase of the land reform implementation plan is completed before the end of the year so that the lessons of the process inform the law amendment process. Consultations are also underway on the three contentious issues,” Chakwera said.
The President also expressed commitment to assist those hit by hunger after their farming was disturbed by disasters. He said 30,000 metric tonnes of maize have so far been set aside to reach those in need.
“Government through the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in collaboration with humanitarian partners is finalising the development of 2020/2021 lean season food insecure response plan which will be used to mobilise resources and coordinate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the affected population,” he said.
On the re-engagement of some retired civil servants, as enquired by Nkhotakota North East lawmaker, Martha Chanjo Lunji, who argued the act may demotivate the civil service, Chakwera stood his ground, saying his administration is actually re-engineering the civil service.
“We have only re-engaged three people out of the entire civil service. There is no way that three people can demotivate the entire civil service. We asked them to help us with their experience to connect with where we are going today,” he said.
The President is expected to return to the august House during its next meeting to answer more questions from the lawmakers.