Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera has ripped apart President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address which he delivered in Parliament on Friday, stressing that the speech fell short of meeting people’s expectations.
Responding to the President’s speech in Parliament Monday, Chakwera said he expected that a list of substantive gains which was in Mutharika’s address, themed ‘Harnessing Economic Gains for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development’ would be presented with evidence and that a plan of harnessing those gains for economic development would be clearly laid out.
He, however, said the speech did not provide those key issues.
“I and all Malawians waited with baited breath to hear if those impressions would be accomplished by the President’s address, but we waited in vain. President Mutharika’s address was full of all the hallmarks of a man who has mastered the art of self-delusion and self-contradiction,” Chakwera said.
He added: “He is like a physician who describes to his patients all the terrifying symptoms and test results that prove that they are critically sick but then who tells those patients that they are in robust health and sends them home without treatment.
“How else do we explain his habit of publicly acknowledging that things are deteriorating on his watch, yet he is also carelessly boasting he has accomplished in two years what no one else has ever accomplished in 50 years?”
Some of the issues Chakwera raised in his speech include the use of traditional leaders for political propaganda and the continued use of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation for the same purpose.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader said the current administration is also failing to walk the talk on reforms it has been advancing in the past three years.
He also faulted the government for failure to fund by-elections in some wards and constituencies.
Chakwera, who stated that he was not only delivering the response as a mouthpiece of MCP and opposition political parties, but also as a servant of God, said the first qualification as a servant of God is truth.
He said that truth is not found in the address Mutharika made in the House on Friday.
“Now, if we want to know the truth, then we must accept that it is not to be found in the proclamations of the State President made from the comforts of his isolated and partisan bubble of useless and handclapping sycophants. Rather, if we want to know the truth, it is found in the testimony of Malawians, for it’s their well-being we all swore an oath to serve,” Chakwera said.
Chakwera also said the persecution of independent media for attempting to give Malawians the other side of the story should come to an end, as the tendency denies Malawians access to information as provided by the law.
In his response, Chakwera also highlighted that while the President stated the country’s gross domestic product grew by 2.7 percent in 2016, he failed to mention that the growth rate was against a projection of 5.9 percent.
He argued that Mutharika takes no personal responsibility for the sluggish economic growth and always blames the weather.
“The President hoodwinked Malawians into believing that he would hit the ground running and operate the business of the government with the efficiency of a private sector company, but he himself admitted in his address that the performance contracts for ministries have only been signed two months ago, and so far only six ministries have done so,” Chakwera said.
Leader of People’s Party (PP) in the House Uladi Mussa also hit at Mutharika’s address, saying it leaves a lot to be desired.
“We expected that we would get a detailed update on how he steered the country in the past year and what he intends to do in the coming year. But he has failed. He has also failed to link the speech to his past speeches,” Mussa said.
He also faulted the Mutharika administration for using such government agencies as the Anti- Corruption Bureau, the Malawi Revenue Authority and the police to victimise political opponents.
On the government’s fight against corruption, the two leaders faulted the Mutharika administration as handling the soaring levels of corruption in the country with kid’s gloves.
Chakwera wondered why Mutharika’s address skirted around corruption when it is a cancer that is driving poverty among Malawians.
Chakwera said the concerns that people have over how a contract on the $500 million project of tapping water from Salima to Lilongwe deserves a credible response not a defensive one.
He also cited the controversial purchase of maize from Zambia late last year as an indication of escalating levels of corruption in the country since Mutharika ascended to the presidency.
He said: “I made reference even to this at the anti-corruption conference last week, no mention about the recommendations, no mention about the way forward; why are we treating corruption with kid’s gloves?”
Mussa was equally dismissive of Mutharika for the government’s silence on major corruption scandals such as the purchase of maize.
He emphasised that the nation had been waiting to hear from Mutharika what progress had been made on the investigations into the procurement of maize from Zambia.
“While the nation was keenly waiting to hear what the government is doing about the shady maize procurement deal, the State of the Nation Address failed to say anything on what serious steps the government has taken to prosecute high-level corruption scandals,” Mussa said.
He wondered why former Minister of Agriculture Georger Chaponda has not been charged following his involvement in the scandal.
Mussa also faulted the government for the arrests of some PP members for allegedly authoring a latter in which Vice President Saulosi Chilima rendered his resignation.
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