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Lazarus Chakwera tears apart Peter Mutharika speech

Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera yesterday tore apart Peter Mutharika’s Tuesday State of the Nation address, saying his speech did not meet the expectations of Malawians.

Chakwera’s description of Mutharika’s speech did not go down well with the government side, forcing some MPs and cabinet ministers, despite standing orders not permitting them trying to respond.

But the Malawi congress Party (MCP) leader did not stop his description of the speech.

“… I must register my deep disappointment with President Mutharika’s address to this August House yesterday. Notably, throughout the 44-page address by the President, ‘Government’ was mentioned more than 180 times while ‘Malawians’ were only mentioned 12 times. Rather than telling us the harsh realities that Malawians are facing, the President decided to bombard us with yet another litany of the bureaucratic machinations of his government,” he said.

He continued: “Many Malawians waited with baited breath to hear the President’s comprehensive assessment of the state of the nation and how Malawians themselves can be part of the solution to propel themselves forward, but all they heard was a public relations address about how busy the government is. But Malawians do not want a busy government; they want a productive one.”

The MCP leader said Malawians are looking for positive changes that will improve their living conditions.

“So today I stand with the many Malawians who feel vindicated in their continuing suspicion that this administration is more obsessed with occupying the seat of government than improving the long-term living conditions of Malawians. A president’s primary responsibility is not to be an executive babysitter who presides over and takes credit for the regular activities government engages in regardless of who is president. The presidency is for spearheading and leading a national transformation agenda that redefines the motives, the means, and the ends by which government functions,” he said.

He also talked about lack of seriousness in the fight against corruption as exemplified by slow action on K92 billion audit.

He also raised a concern on issues surrounding the proposed sale of Malawi Savings Bank (MSB).

“Where is our sanity as a country that in the midst of grinding poverty, shoddy public services, meagre salaries for teachers and the police for example, we have the temerity to give Malawi Savings Bank K6 billion to bail out crooks who do not want to pay back what they owe MSB?…. Why are those who have not paid back what they borrowed from MSB not being asked to pay back what they owe MSB? Why is government paying back on their behalf? Are we saying it is okay to borrow and not pay back? Is this the culture we want to promote in this country?” he said.

He also said he is not impressed with the performance of the economy.

“There are those who will tell us that the recent appreciation of the kwacha and the rise in the import cover are a sign that the economy is doing well. Nothing can be further from the truth. After the free fall of the kwacha in the last half of 2014, it is a known fact that the government manipulated the kwacha in December last year to score cheap political points,” he said,

Chakwera told the House what he expected from Mutharika.

“My expectation was that since at the last sitting of the budget session we had passed a programme-based budget, the Head of State would give us a programme-based report so that we could clearly make a connection between the resources utilised and the actual results. We don’t want the Head of State to come here give us a litany of a wish list of what the government will do but come next year, we will not be told if those wishes were fulfilled or not and yet the money will have been spent anyway,” he said.

He received applause from the opposition benches while the government side was visibly not amused.

Government Chief Whip Henry Mussa, expressed concern to Speaker Richard Msowoya for not giving them a chance to respond.

The speaker, however, referred Mussa to Parliamentary Standing Order 90 which states that a spokesperson of a political party responding to a State of the Nation Address, among others, should be heard uninterrupted.

Mussa later said that Chakwera’s speech, in some areas, referred to the Mutharika as a liar.

The Speaker ruled the word unparliamentarily.

“The word lie is not parliamentary. It should be taken out of the hansard,” Msowoya said.

Minister of Education Emmanuel Fabiano asked the Speaker to tell Chakwera to withdraw the word but Msowoya said he felt his ruling was more powerful than the withdrawal.

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