The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has defied the Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus to suspend voter registration exercise in preparation for the fresh presidential elections in the face of Covid-19.
During random checks in Blantyre, The Daily Times found registration centres open with people registering.
“We are proceeding as normal. We are here until April 17 when this phase was scheduled to end. We have not been told by the commission to suspend the exercise and things are going on as normal,” said one of the Mec officials during the checks.
The registration is currently underway in Chitipa, Salima,
the suspension of the registration exercise. “What the committee is telling Malawians are lies. They don’t have the mandate to call off the registration process. In my view, the elections must continue and precautionary measures must be taken to avoid congestion in the registration centres.
“I urge Malawians to go and register so that they vote on July 2,” Chilima said.
Among others, Chilima questioned Malawi’s level of preparedness for Covid-19, saying the country only has 20,000 test kits capable of testing around 20,000 people only. He said most of the kits have been donated to the country by the Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, of Alibaba.
“The question is, how many test kits has government itself bought? Are we saying that all the billions we set aside for this fight cannot buy test kits? How can we fight this virus if we cannot test people? The World Health Organisation advice to governments is, ‘test, test, test,” Chilima said.
He urged President Peter Mutharika to consider turning idle state lodges such as Zomba, Mudi, Area 12, Mzuzu and Mtunthama into isolation centres for suspected Covid-19 cases.
The Vice President said it is very sad that while the members of the Cabinet in the committee are collecting allowances just to make announcements on the work of health workers on Covid-19, the health workers who are actually doing the real work and risking their lives, are being paid peanuts, adding that some are not even being paid.
“This is shame. Even worse, their salaries are generally low and the government owes arrears to many nurses, doctors, clinicians and other cadres while everyday this government is overspending and abusing funds on awkward priorities like spending hundreds of millions on South African lawyers to defend the indefensible and implementing an illegal electoral calendar that has no backing of the law.
“I hereby propose that the extra cash that the President committed to Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (Medf) should instead be directed to the health sector for this purpose as opposed to Medf where funds are abused and mostly go to ‘ghost’ borrowers and some politically connected people who never pay back at all,” Chilima said.
Mutharika on Saturday directed that a total of K15 billion be allocated to Medf to help boost small businesses which may be affected by Covid-19.
As a way of cushioning Malawians, Chilima proposed the remove VAT and surtax on all medical equipment and hygiene items such as soap and hand sanitizers to enable more people afford to practice regular handwashing with soap as well as use hand sanitizers.
“The Reserve Bank of Malawi should offer a further stimulus package to existing commercial banks and Small Medium Enterprises to ensure that the purpose really benefits those that will be hard hit by the inactivity and slow down of businesses during this period of the Coronavirus crisis,” he said.
Chilima, who on Monday said he had donated 100 percent of his salary to the Covid-19 fight said, Mutharika and Cabinet ministers should commit 50 percent of their salaries as opposed to the announced 10 percent.
He also called on the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority to induce a further cut in fuel prices in accordance with falling landed costs of the commodity.
Chilima said when the decrease in landed cost is fully passed to consumers, the pump price per litre will be K623 for petrol, K704 for diesel and K505 for paraffin. State House Press Secretary Mgeme Kalirani was not immediately available for a comment.
But addressing Malawians on Saturday, Mutharika said the coronavirus attack has a huge negative impact on the economy and businesses everywhere, adding that there are many business people and industry players who are uncertain about the situation as it is unfolding.
He said government will take measures to protect jobs and incomes, protect businesses and ensure continuity of the supply chain and the survival of the economy.
“Let us remember one thing. Malawi’s economy has its own unique characteristics. We are not any other country. At the same time, the situation we have is unprecedented to everyone. With Coronavirus, there are no models except ourselves. “Therefore, it is extremely important that we must be engaging and listening to one another very carefully.
Government must listen to the private sector and the private sector must listen to us – just as I urge employers and employees to listen to one another,” Mutharika said.