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Lazarus Chakwera sets tone for new Malawi

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COMMANDER–IN-CHIEF—Chakwera inspects Guard of Honour

President Lazarus Chakwera was Monday inaugurated as the Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Defence Force during a ceremony held at Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe where he also outlined a number of initiatives that his administration will be undertaking to ensure it is open, transparent and accountable.

Among others, Chakwera promised to trim presidential powers, operationalise the Access to Information law, engage Leader of Opposition quarterly and empower oversight institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

He said over the past 26 years, Malawi has had one administration after another shifting its post to the next election “promising prosperity but delivering poverty; promising nationalism but delivering division; promising political tolerance but delivering human rights abuses; promising good governance but delivering corruption.”

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Chakwera said the “false starts and stale finishes” have left Malawi in ruins, adding that the first start for the Tonse Administration in building a new Malawi is clearing the rubble.

“Before we can begin to rebuild, we must clear the rubble of corruption, for it has left our taxes in ruins; we must clear the rubble of laziness, for it has left our infrastructure in ruins; we must clear the rubble of passivism, for it has left our rights in ruins; we must clear the rubble of donor dependency, for it has left our dignity in ruins.

“We must clear the rubble of regionalism, for it has left our nationhood in ruins; we must clear the rubble of negativity, for it has left our resolve in ruins; we must clear the rubble of impunity, for it has left our governance institutions in ruins; and we must clear the rubble of unprofessionalism and incompetence, for it has left our services in ruins,” Chakwera said.

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He also made it clear that the journey to prosperity would not be a bed of roses, saying the country needs to take a dose of some bitter medicine before it gets better.

Chakwera said Malawians must have the courage to face and endure the pain of systemic surgery if the country wants to enjoy wholeness as a nation.

“We must have the courage to inflict necessary pains on the fractured attitudes and actions of those around us if we ever want to see them whole as citizens. In this transaction, we must each accept that in the context of Malawi’s recovery and transformation, we are each a patient with a bone that needs straightening and each a physician with a duty to straighten the bones of others.

“We are each in some way part of Malawi’s problems and must each in some way be part of her solution. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for the maladministration we have allowed to happen on our watch for close to three decades any more than we can renege on our responsibility to make amends,” Chakwera said.

The Malawi leader was quick to note that a new Malawi could not be achieved with the Tonse Alliance partners only, adding that every Malawian needs to play a role of pulling the country in the right direction.

“Building a New Malawi will have to be a team effort every step of the way. And when we have differences, we will still have to listen to each other and accommodate each other, for we have no other compatriots in all the world than each other.

“And when you see another citizen who is not doing their part in the work that is in front of us, accept it as your duty to the country to rebuke them and help them reengage in the process of nation-building,” he said.

Chakwera also promised to set a good example of submitting himself to the constitutional processes, provisions and institutions that are designed to ensure that the President and Vice-President are always at their best.

“This means that as required by law, I will make a full declaration of my assets each year; I will go to Parliament to be questioned by the people about my handling of state affairs; I will propose legislation to reduce the powers of the presidency and empower institutions to operate independently, including Parliament and the Anti-Corruption Bureau,” the President said.

He also challenged the Judiciary to do more to root out the culture of corruption and selective justice that he charged has shipwrecked many of the lowest courts.

“I will challenge civil society organisations to maintain a culture of robust protest, not just against governance institutions, but against any entity that is on the wrong side of justice.

“I will challenge our development partners to respect our vision and plans for our own country and to partner with us in ways that respect our dignity and sovereignty, not ways that undermine it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chancellor College political scientist Enerst Thindwa described Chakwera’s address as the most inspiring speech from a Head of State since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1994.

“It can be summed up as an attempt to define the problem we face as a country and offering practical solutions. The tone and body language suggested a man on a specific mission to redirect the country’s destiny.

“What remains is the translation of the hope generated into a specific plan of action to accomplish the mission,” Thindwa said.

Social and political commentator Henry Chingaipe described the address as a speech that was stately and befitting for the governance and development trajectory that this country deserves.

“The speech was candid in its pessimism of the diagnosis of the status quo and how we got here; explicit and progressive in its optimism of the prescription that has the potential to take us to a desired state.

“We expect to experience active leadership as opposed to a laissez faire approach of the recent past; accountable and responsive government, clearing the rubble to fix the ruins so that we can rebuild,” Chingaipe said.

Chakwera’s inauguration was shifted to Kamuzu Barracks from Bingu National Stadium in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

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