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State House changes tune on Macra Board

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GIFT TRAPENCE

State House has said that the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Board leadership will not be fired, as expected by many, following President Lazarus Chakwera’s outbursts in light of its decision to have a two-week orientation in Dubai.

Some rights activists have since said Chakwera should be decisive and act on his words.

When Malawi News first reported on June 12, 2021 that Macra Board blew over K46 million on a training in Dubai, the activists and some economic experts called for a dissolution of the entire Macra Board and removal of the line minister after it transpired that the training had been approved by Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako.

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When he launched the second phase of the national fibre backbone project on June 25, 2021 in Lilongwe, Chakwera told Kazako in the face that he was disappointed by the board’s decision to spend a lot of money on capacity building abroad when it was possible to do the same locally.

“That the Board Chair of Macra could not find a more cost-effective way of enhancing the capacity of board members than taking them to Dubai and blowing millions is a clear sign that the leadership of MACRA Board needs to change immediately,” Chakwera said.

“I expect board chairs to be watchdogs against waste, not enablers of it. If we are going to make good use of the work and tools we get from our development partners, such as this fibre backbone, then we ourselves need to get serious in this country,” he said.

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Asked whether the President had made any move to change the Macra Board leadership, State House Press Secretary Brian Banda hinted that the board leadership would not be changed.

Banda said: “The President did not say the leadership needs to be changed but needs to change…that means he expects the leader of the board to change the approach and mindset.”

But Human Rights Defenders Coalition chairperson, Gift Trapence, Friday maintained his organisation’s stand for Chakwera to act on the matter.

“Malawians expect the President to be decisive on this issue by not hiding behind semantics…the days of arrogance and impunity are over,” he said.

In our previous article, an economist based at the Catholic University, Hopkins Kawaye, commended Chakwera for taking a bold decision to state that Macra Board leadership should be changed and urged him to extend the cleaning to Kazako.

Macra Communications Officer, Clara Ngwira, had justified the board training in Dubai by saying it was already budgeted for in Macra’s 2020/2021 annual budget.

“It is part of capacity building for our board members s most of them are new to ICT regulation. We locally conducted a training on Macra overview and ICT regulation after their appointment and this time the training is on corporate governance and regulatory master class on ICT,” she had said in an interview.

Macra Board chairperson, Stanley Khaila, refused to make a comment on the whole saga.

Other Macra board members include Isaac Songea; Fr. Henry Saindi; Stella Kalanda Chuthi; Malla Kaiya Kawale and Alekeni Menyani.

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