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Opposition gives Tonse government below-par rating

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Gospel Kazako

Opposition political parties and civil society organisations have taken turns in criticising what they call below-par performance of the Tonse Alliance administration in 2021.

Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa said in an interview that the year gone by has seen the collapsing of public service delivery system, unfulfilled campaign promises and rising cost of living.

But Minister of Information Gospel Kazako has maintained that government is going everything possible to reduce the suffering of Malawians.

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Nankhumwa was responding to questions by The Sunday Times on how he has rated the Tonse Alliance administration’s performance so far.

“2021 has been a tough year for the Tonse Alliance administration as it has failed to deliver on campaign promises including the creation of one million jobs for Malawians. There is also an almost failed and collapsing Affordable Inputs Program,” Nankhumwa said.

He also accused President Lazarus Chakwera and his Cabinet ministers of being extravagant by “globetrotting” when the people are suffering.

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“You hear today that the President has reduced travelling only to find out the following day that he continues with the travels,” Nankhumwa said.

On the other hand, the Leader of Opposition admitted that there could be several other factors, such as the Covid pandemic, that are affecting the country’s progress but insisted the current administration could have done better.

“Take prices of basic necessities such as edible cooking oil, salt and soap, for example. These are commodities that poor Malawians are supposed to be using every day. What is preventing the government from reducing or removing the 16.5 percent value added tax it introduced on cooking oil so that prices can go down?” Nankhumwa queried.

He also took a swipe at the Tonse Administration over rising fuel prices which he said affect prices of goods and commodities in Malawi.

“Fuel pump prices are over-burdened with various levies in Malawi, so moving forward in 2022, we would like to call upon the Tonse Alliance administration to remove some of these levies so that transportation costs for poor Malawians can also go down,” Nankhumwa said.

On its part, United Democratic Front (UDF) has accused the Tonse Alliance administration of operating on a trial-and-error basis.

UDF Spokesperson Yusuf Mwawa has cited government’s failure to efficiently respond to the economic crisis, which has led to high cost of living, as one area of concern.

Mwawa further said government is not forthcoming with how it intends to cushion Malawians from economic effects of the pandemic as companies retrench workers and the business environment has been rendered not conducive for investors.

“‘It is a known fact that all countries are not doing fine economically, but what is disturbing is that unlike other countries, here at home, the government continues to drag on economic recovery,” Mwawa said.

Mwawa also criticised Chakwera over what he described as delays in making crucial decisions such as filling vacant ministerial positions.

“It is sad that up to now, the President is yet to identify and appoint people that can fill various ministerial posts in government,” Mwawa said.

Asked to comment on the performance of the current administration in 2021, Executive Director of Church and Society, a governance arm of Livingstonia Synod, Moses Mkandawire, said not all is lost.

While commending Chakwera for not shielding Cabinet ministers allegedly involved in corrupt practices, Mkandawire has rued poor communication, indecision and rising commodity prices.

But in a separate interview, Kazako justified the President’s purported delays in decision making such as filling vacant Cabinet portfolios, saying Chakwera “believes in solid and well processed decision making that interfaces with his plans and objectives”.

“The President is within his speedometer provisions. It is not the speed (by the way); but the outcome that matters,” Kazako said.

On the high cost of living, the government spokesperson reiterated that the administration shares the pain with Malawians.

He, however, argued it is being unrealistic to blame the economic challenges on Chakwera and his administration.

“Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Angel Merkel put together cannot kick-start this economy in the few days or weeks the people are told to demand. Those top economies are sneezing also as this is a global problem created by numerous forces, majorly Covid-19,” Kazako said.

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