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No holds barred: What is it that Mutharika wants to remain hidden?

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There is something about the Access to Information Bill that is frightening President Peter Mutharika. He is unalterably opposed to the clause in the bill that states that Malawians should be allowed access to information for events that took place before the law came into force.

Why is he afraid of that? What is he hiding? Why can’t he let us just have the access we want? Whether that access will date to as far back as the times of Sir Harry Johnstone is none of Mutharika’s business. He should just let us have that access. There is no justification whatsoever for preventing the clause from being part of this law. ‘This provision does not make sense,’ Mutharika is on record as saying. ‘If it passes through Parliament, I will veto it.’

No, Sir, it makes sense. It makes a whole lot of sense especially since $214 million became unaccounted for when your brother was in charge.

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Blocking us from access to information of that era will not be very helpful to our efforts to find the truth about the missing millions.

And you, Sir, by the way, publicly boasted of being filthy rich, that you finance your entire party, the Democratic Progressive Party, singlehandedly.

Perhaps there is something connected to the way you accumulated that wealth you do not want us to know?

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Because university lecturers — in America or elsewhere — do not acquire wealth just like that. We know, for instance, that you bought a Malawi Housing Corporation house under hazy circumstances, and that is just one piece of information that was never followed to its logical conclusion. Could there be more than the Malawi Housing Corporation deal that we do not know about?

And when, by the way, will this Access to Information Bill be tabled? Next year? The year after? Or 2020?

Chiyembekeza’s diatribe against irrigation advocates Did you see this diatribe in The Daily Times the other day?

It was Allan Chiyembekeza, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. He has had it up to here. He can’t stomach it anymore. So he railed against all those who say our country is not doing enough on irrigation farming.

Before we get to the diatribe, let’s expand the context. One-third of our country is covered by fresh water. It is unfathomable how on earth we find ourselves lacking food.

People are saying that those in power are clueless about taking this country forward. They still want to rely on rain-fed agriculture instead of escalating the use of irrigation.

Chiyembekeza has an answer for all these people, and we will paste it here verbatim. You must have patience, because it’s almost 500 words. Here goes: “There are some people who just talk without knowing what they are talking about. I think we have to change that. Everybody talks about irrigation but how many know about irrigation and what is required to do irrigation?

How many irrigation schemes do we have in the country?…

how many? How much water is flowing into those schemes before growing maize and how many people would choose to grow maize using irrigation farming? Maybe that’s what we have to be asking ourselves.

“It is not about speaking in an office and saying government is wasting resources on Fisp (Farm Input Subsidy Programme) because it is rainfed why can’t we use that in irrigation. I have visited so many irrigation schemes, which irrigation scheme do you have in mind where we can invest Fisp resources and get something? What were those irrigation schemes established for? Do we know about that?

“And everybody talks about having a scheme along Lake Malawi. I wish they made a trip and looked at the land they are talking about and who owns that land. We have Malawi Mangoes in Salima, they have struggled to get land there…struggled.

“Government had to pay lots and lots of money to compensate the people. There are so many things we need to look at than just quick thing of saying government is wasting resources on Fisp for rain-fed agriculture, which is not assisting us.

“Since when has rain-fed agriculture not helped this country? From 2005 when subsidy was introduced, we have realised bumper yields with a good season. Sometimes bad but not as worse as last year and what is happening now. I really wish these people had gone to the places they are talking about and see what is happening there and come back and tell me to say, I think this system has failed in this way and I would have done this or that…demonstrating. I wish that happened.”

Your columnist’s take: In this response, the Minister of Agriculture comes across as a person who does not have any vision that could result in using irrigation on a large scale. He is satisfied with rain-fed agriculture. We should, therefore, forget about the much-touted Green-Belt Initiative, which has been talked of for many years but no one has seen it come to fruition.

‘Green-belt initiative’ are nice words that make those uttering them appear to have a vision, but in the end they are nothing beyond what they are, just words.

Egyptians as far back as 4,000 years ago were using the shaduf, a crude way of watering their crops. And they have only the River Nile to depend on.

We have an entire lake and many big rivers that feed it, and the enormous Shire that flows out of it. It’s unbelievable that we should be talking about famine due to rain shortages.

And yet from the Minister’s response, we should get used to this. Personally, he seems satisfied that the nation should rely on rain and nothing else. Every nation elects leaders it deserves. And we deserve this. Instead of vision, we’re tongue-lashed.

Instead of changing the way we do things, we’re being told to remain contented with rain-fed agriculture. Isn’t it ironical to see the entire State President lead the nation on prayers for rain when we have lots of water in the lake and in our rivers? We should pray for vision, not necessarily rain.

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