Some civil society organisations (CSOs) in the country have warned that they will force government to call for early elections if the executive remains arrogant and proceeds with the sale of Malawi Savings Bank (MSB).
The activists on Friday led hundreds of Malawians in Lilongwe in protest against the controversial sale of the state-owned bank and the decision by government to bail out some individuals and private companies by settling over K6 billion of toxic assets owed to the bank.
Speaking when he presented a petition to Parliament, one of the organisers of the demonstrations Billy Mayaya said Malawians are against the move and that it was important for government to take heed of concerns of poor taxpayers.
“ If our demands are not met, we shall demand and call for fresh elections to usher in a crop of new leaders who will serve our interests as citizens of Malawi. We demand that the National Assembly debates and approves the
Bank to the tune of K5 billion so that it continues to operate as a going concern.
“We demand that all those who took loans repay them failing which their assets must be seized forthwith. Our taxes should not be used to bail out corrupt politicians and businessmen with political connections,” reads part of the petition.
The CSOs have also called upon Parliament to among others summon Minister of Finance, Secretary to the Treasury and Public and Private Partnership Commission to appear before the House and explain issues surrounding the sale.
Chairperson of Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament Rhino Chiphiko, who received the petition on behalf of Speaker Richard Msowoya, said it has reinvigorated the MPs who also have been fighting for the same.
“ You all know that it was an opposition MP who moved a motion in Parliament to put to a stop the sale of the bank on 26 of February. Parliament has indeed the jurisdiction over this issue because it represents the wishes of the people. I promise that by next week my committee will table its report on the same,’ said Chiphiko.
The marchers also presented another petition to Secretary to the Treasury, which was received by spokesperson in the Ministry of Finance Nations Msowoya at Civic Offices in the city.
The group has given government a 60-day ultimatum to meet the set demands and warned that the CSOs will stage vigils in all MSB outlets across the country as well as Parliament building.
Some of the CSOs that have signed the petition include Centre for Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), and Forum for National Development.
Meanwhile opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday shot down the tabling of a bill through which government seeks to secure an $80 million (about K36 billion) loan from the International Development Association (IDA) for the Floods Emergency Recovery Project.
The lawmakers, who rejected the bill with an oral vote after Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe had read it for the first time, argued that the would-be law lacked details regarding how the funds will be used.
They further dismissed Leader of the House Francis Kasaila’s argument that the opposition side was consulted on the bill on Wednesday, arguing they were simply informed that it would be presented without being furnished with the actual details.
While stressing that his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supports the bill, Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera argued that it would be illogical to authorise government to secure the loan without first having a clear picture of the implementation details.
He further faulted government for hiding behind the purported urgency of the need to secure the loan, arguing that during the actual period of the disaster, it was understandable to overlook some details in the pursuit of meeting the needs of the victims.
“We want accountability to be there to enable us to consult. It is also important for us to be able to follow the processes involved in the implementation of the projects. We want to know the necessary procedures.
“I talked to [Gondwe] and he understood our concerns and has promised to bring the bill with more details. It is also important that we should be furnished with a report on how the funds that were appropriated towards disaster response during the mid-year budget review have been utilised,” said Chakwera.
He added that another report on how well-wishers’ response to the disaster has been utilised would be essential for accountability and transparency purposes.
“Otherwise, we have not rejected the bill; we are simply asking for details,” said Chakwera.
The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) promised that it would publish a report on how the resources by different stakeholders who aided disaster victims have been used.
On the other hand, Chakwera asked government to scale up the disaster response initiatives beyond the 15 districts that were declared disaster areas by President Peter Mutharika earlier this year, observing that many more Malawians have been affected.
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