President Peter Mutharika spent the first part of his 41-minute address schooling Parliament of its duties and responsibilities, arguing that the House should never consider itself bigger than government.
But critics have described the address during the opening of the 47th session of Parliament yesterday as a missed opportunity, arguing it lacked substance as it focused on settling scores with opponents.
“I have seen times when Members of Parliament frustrate government business that is meant to serve the very people we claim to represent. And I ask again: why are we here?” The President queried.
Mutharika added: “Far too often, Mr Speaker, we meet here to flex our political muscles. This is not a House for political posturing. This is not our House. Parliament is the House of the people.”
He then admitted that there is a big energy crisis in the country as thousands of Malawians continue having their businesses either suspended or closed altogether, due to power shortage.
“Many homes are in the dark for hours. Barber shops for our young men are suffering. In our villages everywhere, women have to wait for hours at maize mills while children wait for food back at home. Life is no longer normal for everyone,” Mutharika said.
The same time he was making such sentiments, thousands of Malawians continued expressing their frustrations on social media over what they describe as government’s failure to address the crisis
However, like he has done several times before, the President pushed the blame onto previous governments which he argued had not invested to expand energy generation.
Mutharika said while government is working to improve the energy sector, priority for distribution of 160 megawatts that are being generated is given to essential service providers like referral hospitals and the water boards, which together consume a total of 70 megawatts.
Even though the official document bearing the day’s programme and the Order Paper indicated that he would be delivering a State of the Nation Address (Sona), the President said his speech was just aimed at opening the 47th session of Parliament and that he would deliver a Sona at an appropriate time.
Giving his reaction, Leader of Opposition and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera described the speech as a ‘good public lecture’ about what Parliament is and the kind of maintenance work that is being done.
Chakwera said Mutharika talked about Malawi Development and Growth Strategy (MDGS) 3 but never once mentioned the fact that last December, Parliament passed a law that established the National Planning Commission.
“So, in their mind it doesn’t feature anywhere. And then of course, you have a loud silence on electoral reforms despite the fact that his own Ministers went on record that they would be bringing those during this time,” Chakwera said.
On the electoral reforms bills, Chakwera said they will hold those responsible accountable.
“I am waiting for an official word from the Leader of the House because he told us they were coming. If the President is silent and if that is an indication that this is their manner of doing of doing stuff, then the world must know that there is no reason to even give monies to do consultation, to do seminars, talking about what needs to happen for democracy to be consolidated in this country,” he said.
Reacting to Mutharika’s accusations that those who oppose his government are opposing for the sake of it, Chakwera said Malawians know better.
“I am not just opposing for the sake of it. Every time that we have helped this administration to make things right was because of our love for the nation and our service to the people we represent. I have never opposed for the sake of it, never in my life,” Chakwera said.
He described the assertion that Malawi is getting better as delusionary.
The new Leader of Peoples Party (PP) in Parliament Ralph Mhone said the solution of generators to electricity problems is 18 months overdue, adding what Malawians want to see is the detail in the yet to be implemented solution.
Mhone said the issue of accountability needs to be tackled holistically but the PP has failed to see any breakthrough, in terms of arresting corrupt individuals since the PP left.
“That’s where the problem lies, we are yet to see action on what is happening in the country in terms of corruption,” Mhone said.
He, however, said the statement tackled three important things including electricity and roads but lacked depth.
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