Leader of opposition: behold an agenda of the people


As the august House sits in Lilongwe, a number of issues come to mind which cut a critical agenda for the members of the House to address, particularly those on the opposition side of the deliberations, or those rare critical minds that can afford a non-partisan stance on vital matters affecting all the people of Malawi.

Yes this is officially a Budget Session, but what is a national budget if leaders cannot at the same time tackle issues that harmfully impinge on the implementation of the budget, the management of the economy and development of the people?

Right Honourable Leader of Opposition, I entreat you and your side of the House to pursue the following agenda, which in my judgement is perfectly representative of public opinion:


To start with, the ongoing debate to review the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme or Fisp must be brought to its logical conclusions. I am admittedly hawkish against Fisp; yet I have no apologies to make.

And the reason for this position is simple: I have no faith whatsoever in politically manipulated development strategies whose real impacts are entrapping people in a vicious cycle of poverty, dependence on externalities and what you have wittingly called ‘subsistence economics’ totally ill-equipped to advance people’s lives.

For me improving Fisp is quite easy if leaders influencing decisions such as Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Agriculture Minister Allan Chembekeza are willing to transition from politics to economics; from patronage to liberation of people’s creative energies.


The bottom line is that Fisp beneficiaries must pay more than the K500 pittance that they pay now; the numbers of beneficiaries must comprise the ultra-needy which then can get more inputs; and logistics and technical oversight left to private sector experts who have the attitude, the skills and the motivation. Anything else borders on criminal inconsideration.

Right Honourable, the Minister for Lands has a brilliant point when he says “if you continue to give land to foreigners your children will one day become foreigners in their own land and foreigners will claim this is their land”. This is indeed an ‘existential threat’ to the people which the opposition should tackle to protect both land and people. Pure reality, no hard feelings to foreigners!

Yet it has to be admitted that it is not just land at stake, it is also the haphazard physical planning of Malawi’s cities and towns; the poor quality of structures that people are allowed to put up; and the unacceptable unpaved access roads to housing estates.

Fifty years on, Malawi’s cities still comprise substandard buildings; poorly designed and constructed houses in both high and low density estates; and the cities are run by councils which do not seem to exactly care about quality and modernity. Of course, Malawians know that most of the land, construction permits and inspectors’ approvals that developers have are fraudulently obtained and that all levels of the leadership structure are complicit in the transactions.

Right Honourable Leader of Opposition, in the spirit of accountability, you should demand a progress report on the Cashgate trails. Cashgate is not just a loss of scarce resources; it is a humongous psychological pain. I understand when Finance Minister Gondwe feels haunted by the ‘embarrassing shadow of Cashgate’ on his fundraising trips.

And please do brace for it! The scandal will diehard, more so if the handling of the cases is botched up by more corruption. Meanwhile, leaders will do well to always remember that the world is watching Malawi and that still so much remains undone before Malawi truly mends its relations with development partners, certainly in terms of large grants.

Now do not think I do not know how hard it is to drive the Cashgate agenda in Parliament. Given that too many hands dipped into the public purse, on government and opposition benches alike, raising theft issues when people are actually being arrested and tried is for some like thrusting a dagger into their sides. It’s gut-wrenching.

Well that’s what sin does. It pursues and bites at a time one should be having fun. But as leader in checking and balancing government excesses, you have little option Right Honourable. This you must move in Parliament and brace for a rough ride too.

It is serious betrayal of trust that after ceaseless attacks of Joyce Banda’s ‘borrowing economics’ and making oath-like promises not to, government went on to borrow secretly ‘to prop up the kwacha value’ which economists such as Professor Ben Kalua have warned against times without number.

This is common sense now; an artificially sustained currency is a recipe for disaster. But then Right Honourable we are dealing not with economics but with politics here. And tackling and challenging such recklessness by leaders who know much better than they actually do, squarely falls in ‘the domain of leadership by legitimate opposition’.

With regard to hard economic indicators, it’s quite obvious Malawi won’t achieve the 5.8 per cent growth recently touted. The floods had their toll, contributing in large part to reduced agriculture output which will further depress growth. We look to Parliament to get government to define ways to keep the economy afloat and on its tracks.

Talking of reduced food output, Malawians deserve to be assured of government action; timeliness and corrupt-free procurement of the 40 per cent food deficit. I also urge the opposition to find out more about the much touted Greenbelt Irrigation Project option. The roll out is unacceptably slow to be able to turn around the food security situation even as more people slide into poverty, malnutrition and needless death.

Most frustrating, government has just used K6 billion of taxpayers’ money to erase what are clearly private toxic loans, and then blame the courts for its own leadership failure. Admissions have been made that the loans overstayed and that they did not even generate interest as all loans should.

In John Kapito’s words “this is pure stealing” and so Parliament as the people’s voice must intervene decisively. As for me, I don’t believe that government will ever recover the money when the bank, by government’s own manipulations, failed to do so.

Why and how this happened is what needs to be uncovered. Parliament must pursue this matter relentlessly or else Malawians will have been cheated.

Turning to health, Malawi has in the past six months lost 328 mothers as revealed by Health Minister Jean Kalilani. The Ministry admits that “the quality of care is not good enough” and has directed investigations, after the hard fact.

Well, I recall that former president Joyce Banda declared war on maternal health and I also know that things were looking up so much so that Malawi was becoming a laboratory for other countries to learn from.

The question is how did the same Ministry that achieved this feat in two years under Joyce Banda lose momentum in one short year under Peter Mutharika? The bottom line is that the country has failed to produce and support skilled maternal health workers; it has failed to sustain the tempo of operations created by Banda’s female-led government and that technical leadership within the sector has seriously faltered.

Right Honourable we cannot afford to start losing mothers again after stopping and beginning to reverse the maternal mortality rate. Additionally, I bid you to spark discussion of the proposal for the sector to ‘sanction a policy of user fees’ in public facilities. I do appreciate that it is a terribly contentious policy proposal vulnerable to much politicisation, but perhaps a timely and necessary evil.

Right Honourable, find out where we are regarding public sector reforms, I mean an actual progress report. You have made the point before that the reforms are not adequately inclusive of other political parties and that they lack a legal basis for legitimacy. And I agree.

It is, therefore, not too late for Parliament to demand clarity on the philosophical and legal bases of the reforms, obtain an official report card and make input into the pros and cons of the process. Let us consider the reality that these reforms will have impacts on people, institutions and systems and that impacts had better be positive developmental, never partisan expectations.

The issue of labour maltreatment has resurfaced, as recent media reports commemorative of Labour Day on May 1 suggest that Chinese employers’ abuse of employees persists. And of course there are others too going beyond the constancy of Chinese conflict with Malawian law.

In respect of this I advise that Parliament must not only seek an explanation from the Labour Minister, the Minister must be tasked to deal with the violations decisively. While addressing emerging cases of violation, I also suggest a short-term survey which will provide the basis for firm legally supported sanction of opportunists and perpetrator.

It is incumbent upon the Ministry to routinely mobilise its labour inspectors who must ensure that all employers follow labour laws; that all Malawians are protected from exploitation and that all diversions from the law are firmly dealt with.

And of course Right Honourable you should raise the fresh matter of xenophobic attacks on Malawians and other Africans. As Africa rethinks the challenges revealed by these events, Malawi must move in tandem with developments.

There are internal job access and skills training policies and systems for government to examine, including rapid expansion and diversification of technical training programmes already initiated. Malawi can also pursue options for regional collaboration to examine labour schemes and possibilities for legitimising free labour movements. But all this calls for a deliberate debate and cross examination of options for the good of Malawi’s young people.

Not least and buttressing all these issues is the challenges of internal security which has lapsed in recent years. There are far too many gory stories to be told and heard; far too many innocent Malawians dying needlessly. Hard earned life-long savings and properties are being destroyed, pushing people back into poverty!

This has to be dealt with firmly at any cost other than lives. Yes, a lot is being done to secure all of us, but I bid the House to raise the issue of security and so continue to seek ways to protect people, property and new investors. In the same manner, I urge government to increase attention on internal security. Investment without security is unattainable.

My final word: Malawi is on the course to fruitful democracy and the opposition is the central pillar of this process. You have my support Right Honourable.

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