Mr Speaker, Sir
Since His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika came here on Friday to subject us to yet another display of his dereliction of one of the most sacred duties of the Office of the President, the task of reporting to you the true state of the nation and what we must do about it has once again fallen to me. I do not take this task lightly. This is not because this month puts us a year away from the General Elections, nor because it was President Mutharika’s last opportunity to paint a true picture of and offer real solutions to the terrible conditions in which our people are living, an opportunity he wasted on delivering something akin to a state of delusion. Rather, it is because I feel duty-bound to the Malawian people to give voice to their pain and embrace their determination to see the back of it.
Mr Speaker, Sir, as I stand before you today, our nation is languishing in squalor. Malawi is suffering from a severe and paralysing ailment. There is no Malawian, from the southern valleys of the Shire to the northern banks of the Rukuru, who is not bearing the brunt of the cancer that grows in our midst.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I wish I could tell you that the malady I speak of can be cured, but it cannot, for it has resisted every panacea for four solid years and counting. Rather, it is a malignant growth that must be removed with urgency and prejudice. The malady I speak of is not poverty, for our towns and villages have millions of young people who would work their way towards a prosperous future, if they were not hindered. The malady I speak of is not our people’s poor health, for our hospitals have thousands of qualified medical personnel who would save our people from preventable diseases, if they were not hindered. The malady I speak of is not hunger, for our fields have thousands of dedicated farmers who would feed nations, if they were not hindered. The malady I speak of is not even President Mutharika himself, for the presidency is surrounded by thousands of devoted civil servants who would run a credible and efficient government, if they were not hindered.
Mr Speaker, Sir, let me put it plainly and bluntly: the cancer hindering the transformation of our nation is the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Everything else is but a symptom of this dysfunction-promoting-paralysis. As such, only a fool would believe that the good old pillars in this government can turn a disease into a cure for their own failed leadership, and only a fool would believe that the young soulless agitators in this government can turn a disease into a cure for our failing economy. The fact is: Anyone offering the DPP to Malawians is choosing to remain part of the problem for there is no place in our nation where the symptoms of this infirmity are not manifest. Malawians are not interested in politicians who want to keep in government a party that maintains the status quo. They want leaders whose mission is to get rid of it, and they know that the DPP in its entirety is that status quo.
To put it clinically, Mr. Speaker, Sir, the syndrome called DPP has three primary symptoms. The first is failing to tell Malawians the truth. The DPP is a party of untruths. In its manifesto, it promised prosperity for all, but is only delivering prosperity to a select few; promising justice for all, but creating a state where Chasowa and [Issa] Njaunju’s murders remain unsolved; promising security for all, but failing to even provide security for its own parliamentarians and its own President during the State of the Nation Address.
The DPP promised to “make the country the food basket of the region”, only to reverse its own policy by banning the export of our farmers’ crops. So I ask you, Honourable Members, is Malawi the region’s food basket today? It is not true.
The DPP promised to introduce health insurance for all public servants. I ask you, are all public servants enjoying this benefit today? It is not true.
The DPP promised to end drug shortages in our hospitals. I ask you, are all our hospitals adequately resourced today? It is not true.
The DPP promised “to eliminate illiteracy by 2019”. I ask you, is illiteracy gone among our constituents today? It is not true.
The DPP promised that “the teaching profession will be upgraded” and that teachers would be paid on time. I ask you, are our teachers feeling this upgrade today? It is not true.
The DPP promised to “provide Total Security to both persons and businesses”. I ask you, has this Total Security been felt by those with albinism or those falsely accused of being bloodsuckers, the elderly or the DPP’s own MPs who have been harassed here at Parliament and allegedly had their cars burned? It is not true.
The DPP promised to “reduce congestion” of traffic on our roads. I ask you, do drivers enjoy roads that have no congestions today? It is not true.
The DPP promised to reform the civil service by cutting off unnecessary positions. I ask you, is the civil service any smaller today? It is not true.
The DPP promised to remove from the presidency the power to appoint or remove the Governor of the Reserve Bank, the Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Auditor General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Clerk of Parliament, the Malawi Law Commissioner, the Director General of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, the Director General of Macra. I ask you, have you seen the President relinquish these powers? It is not true.
The DPP promised to “cooperate and collaborate with the civil society, non-governmental organisations and the media”, yet it sends its young cadets to the streets to threaten CSOs who want to protest peacefully, creates a heavily armed police barricade to block Malawians from marching peacefully and in his State of the Nation Address before this House, President Mutharika himself accused the CSOs who marched peacefully of plotting violence and seeking to destabilise the country. I ask you, does that sound like co-operation? It is not true.
The DPP promised to double Malawi’s exports in five years. I ask you, have you seen Malawi’s exports doubling? It is not true. In fact, between 2013 and the end of 2017, Malawi’s exports have shrunk by $400 million dollars!
The DPP promised to construct a state-of-the-art Judicial Complex right next to this very House. I ask you, have you seen this beautiful building? It is not true.
The DPP promised to only borrow for production and never for consumption, and yet it borrows millions to build stadiums to entertain young people and nothing to build factories to employ them. I ask you, is this production? It is not true.
The DPP promised Malawian women that they would enjoy equal numbers to men at all leadership levels of the public and civil service. I ask you, has this been done? It is not true.
The DPP promised to put an end to the deforestation of Chikangawa forest. I ask you, does that forest look like anyone is protecting it? It is not true.
The DPP promised to open the Nsanje Inland Port, yet today it lies in ruins with nothing to show for the $20 million the DPP flushed down the drain. I ask you, is this port now operational? It is not true.
The DPP promised to complete, not start, but to complete the construction of universities in Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhotakota, Mangochi and Nsanje. I ask you, are our young people expected to graduate from a foundation stone?
The DPP promised the end of blackouts by the end of 2017. I ask you, are Malawians out of the dark ages? It is not true.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I could go on and on until Election Day naming DPP promises that were nothing but promises. It is a party of unfulfilled promises. Not telling Malawians the truth is how it got into power and not telling the truth to Malawians is how it has governed Malawians. The DPP will even use things that are real to create a false impression, to peddle something fake. It builds real community colleges, but when you look at their quality up close, it is clear that the DPP is peddling fake education, but our young people deserve better. The DPP lays real foundation stones and leaves them behind in order to fake development, when we all know they are monuments of failure. The DPP repaints real post-offices in order to fake reform. The DPP will give massive handouts in by-elections and lose because Malawians cannot be fooled by fake generosity.
Mr Speaker Sir, the DPP takes a real company called Malawi Mangoes, claims to have wooed it to expand its operations to Salima, when the company has already had operations there for seven years, all in an effort to fake investments. So wherever you see the DPP talking, you will find all kinds of untruths there. Even when what it says starts with the truth, the end thereof is untruths. The DPP and fake promises cannot be separated, and Malawi is drowning in its untruths, so if we want a government that tells Malawians the truth, we must accept that the DPP is incapable of delivering such a government.
Mr Speaker, Sir, there is a second symptom of life in Malawi under the malady of the DPP. It is the symptom of sealing from Malawians. As you may recall, the DPP promised “zero tolerance on corruption”, that “there shall not be Cashgate scandal under the DPP”. But Malawi’s score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index was better in the Cashgate years of 2013 and 2014 than it has been in 2015, 2016, and 2017 under the DPP. In fact, we now have an MP of the DPP on record declaring publicly that stealing under the DPP is worse now than it was during Cashgate, as evidenced by people close to the President amassing untold wealth overnight and as soon as the DPP got into government, not to say anything of DPP ministers that suddenly appear in their constituencies with a thousand new bicycles and cars bought with funds from sources that go by the name “somewhere”, sources that the DPP insists on keeping in the dark. And as if that wasn’t enough, there has recently emerged a leaked phone call between top DPP officials salivating over the opportunity to steal from the key Ministry of Agriculture.
Is this not reminiscent of the time not long ago when two separate Commissions of Inquiry implicated the then minister of Agriculture in corrupt practices in the procurement of maize from Zambia, and yet the DPP retained him as its Vice-President? His head did not roll in the DPP then, and no heads are rolling in the DPP now, because stealing from Malawians is not a consequential crime in the DPP. Stealing from Malawians is a pastime. It is business as usual. At every turn, the DPP creates easy loopholes that facilitate wanton stealing from Malawians. If the DPP sells a bank belonging to Malawians, it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If a DPP official or sympathiser sues the State, the compensation they will seek through the courts is multiple times more than the loss they suffered, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If the DPP procures generators, it will turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the outcry of Malawians against the move, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If there is a foreign trip for the President, the DPP will flood his entourage with dozens of cash-hungry hand-clappers, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If there is a vacancy at a foreign embassy that requires a professional and career diplomat, the DPP will send someone unqualified whose only credential is being related to someone at State House by tribe or blood, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If there are vacancies on parastatal boards, the DPP will fill those seats with party sympathisers who then siphon money to fund Blue Nights, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians. If there is a Youth Centre to be built in Mzuzu, the DPP will launch the project twice and spend K30 million a month on allowances while there is no building to show for it, because it is a chance to steal from Malawians.
The DPP has no shortage of wide open gates for siphoning money from Malawians: Cashgate 2.0, Calendar Printing Gate, Admarc K45 billion Gate, Teveta Gate, Mulli Brothers K3 Billion Gate, Macra Gate, Maize Gate, Office Furniture Gate, Generator Gate, Medical Stores Procurement Gate, Salima Feasibility Study Gate, Mombera University Gate, Phalombe District Hospital Gate, Nsanje Inland Port Gate, K4 billion Disbursement Gate, Tractor Gate, National Aids Commission Fund Gate, and 236 billion Gate. Surely this cannot go on. Surely this has to end. Surely, we see that these egregious acts of stealing from Malawians are depriving Malawians of roads, medicines, school supplies, school hostels, college scholarships, clean neighbourhoods, teachers, nurses, doctors and many more. It is not enough for the President to come here and brag that his government is working on 12 roads, because if the money lost by the DPP through theft is enough to create 50 roads, then it is foolish to clap and chant “Boma”. Now, to be sure, we don’t want a Boma that has anything to do with stealing, but we must accept that it would be easier to remove the DPP from government than it would be to remove theft from the DPP.
Mr Speaker, Sir, the third symptom of the DPP malady is Torturing Malawians. Wherever you see the DPP in operation, it will not just turn a blind eye to the suffering of Malawians, but it will act as the catalyst for that suffering. It is not uncommon to hear a DPP official castigating respected community leaders, not caring about the hurt this causes. It is not uncommon to hear a DPP official using incendiary and foul language in a public address, not caring about the pain of humiliation this causes. It is not uncommon to see the DPP exploiting chiefs to divide communities, not caring about the social pains this inflicts. It is not uncommon to see the DPP government appoint or promote someone to a public office who was responsible for torturing Malawians in a previous assignment, not caring about the trauma this causes past victims. The DPP will even call a 45 year old man a baby and unfit for the presidency, thus insulting 15 million Malawians under the age of 45, contradicting the Constitution, and publicly humiliating a man who has a wife and children.
It is not uncommon to see DPP cadets harassing, assaulting, and bullying people in the streets in broad daylight and in full view of police officers who are often reduced to powerless spectators. In fact, those of us on this side of the House have on several occasions been on the receiving end of the violence of blue-clad or blue-painted cadets in the North, in the Center, and in the South. And each time we have condemned the violence, the DPP machinery has dismissed our complaints. But over the weekend, the aggression the DPP has tolerated from these cadets for years spilled over to two of their own MPs and even spilled into this House and victimised their own president as he delivered his address. And now suddenly both the President and the Vice-President issue statements condemning the violence of their own charges, when we all know that these cadets have been doing this to peace-loving Malawians for years without a single word of condemnation from President Mutharika or his muzzled Vice.
Does the suffering and pain caused by their party cadets and party officials only matter when it is inflicted on them and their loyalists? When the President and Vice President were safe in their tax-paid palaces and their DPP cadets came to hack MCP members during Mulanje’s by-elections last month, why didn’t either of them say anything? Why didn’t either of them say anything against violence when their DPP cadets hurled stones at me and my delegation during the Gonapamuhanya event in Rumphi seven months ago? Why didn’t either of them say anything against violence when their DPP cadets attempted to mob me at John Chilembwe’s memorial in Chiradzulu two years ago? In 2013, when Professor Mutharika was arrested on treason charges, was it not his party cadets that wrote to president Joyce Banda threatening to set the country on fire if Mutharika was not released without conditions? Was it not his party’s cadets that responded to that arrest by disrupting social order in the streets of our cities and having running battles with the police? Was it not that year that one journalist examined the history of violence perpetrated by political parties since the late 1990s and concluded that the DPP is the party that has violence in its very DNA?
So now after four years of DPP abuses torturing Malawians through dysfunctional systems; after four years of DPP policies torturing Malawians through the sale of land to foreigners while citizens remain landless in their own country; after four years of DPP directives torturing Malawians by banning them from selling their own maize; after four years of DPP officials torturing Malawians by verbally assaulting them at rallies and in the media; after four years of torturing Malawians by ignoring their cries against the sale of MSB, the buying of maize, and the borrowing of generators; and after four years of DPP cadets torturing Malawians through physical assault in the streets and bringing armoured vehicles and tear gas to block a peaceful march, the President and Vice-President have only now realised that violence is bad and should be condemned?
Mr Speaker, Sir, if the President and Vice-President think they and their political allies are the only people worth protecting from violence or that they are the only people whose suffering at the hands of DPP violent thugs is worth condemning, then I want to put them both on notice that that is not the kind of country Malawians want. That is not the kind of country Malawians voted for in 1993 in the Referendum. And when President Mutharika came to this House on Friday, calling Malawi a nation whose economy has been fixed, millions of listening Malawians looked around them and saw only signs of a broken economy. When the President declared that confidence had been regained, when he himself knows that seven days earlier thousands of Malawians were in the streets of all three regions in a march of no confidence in his government, Malawians looked within them and saw only signs of lost confidence. When I heard him proclaim that projects were moving and hope is rising, I thought of the millions of Malawians who look ahead and see only foundation stones descending and living costs ascending. And that is certainly not the country I pledge my blood and sweat to build for Malawians as President.
Yes, Mr Speaker, Sir, I, Lazarus Chakwera have an alternative vision for Malawi. I know that one of the most common lies told in this country is that I criticise the DPP government, but offer no alternatives. Those who repeat this lie should be ashamed of themselves, because this lie is easy to disprove. All you have to do is take all the things I have said in public, including all the speeches I have delivered before this House over the last four years, and highlight every statement in which I suggested a solution to a problem the DPP government has failed to solve. What you will find is that in my limited capacity as Leader of Opposition and without access to any of the resources, powers, treaties, information, and instruments the Constitution gives only to the State President, I have given Mutharika enough alternative policies and suggested changes to turn this country around. We are not in this mess because of a lack of good ideas or alternatives, but because of the DPP’s lack of political will to use any of the alternative ideas.
So now I am determined to partner with young Malawians in pursuing the alternative vision I have for the country, since the DPP is too infected to make a healthy partner for development, as a certain political party has found out. But Mr Speaker, Sir, this alternative vision is not one I created or manufactured alone, but one that young Malawians themselves have helped create and entrusted to my care as I have interacted with them across the country, from the tea estates of Mulanje and Thyolo to the plateaus of Rumphi and Karonga. It is an alternative vision for Malawi that I have heard young Malawians in Nsanje and Chikwawa describe as they have narrated their suffering to me after failing to secure a job at the only company in their communities.
It is an alternative vision for Malawi that young Malawians in Rumphi, Mzimba and Nkhata- Bay have etched on my heart as they described the pain of failing to afford or qualify for University after passing MSCE exams with flying colours. It is an alternative vision for Malawi that young Malawians in Machinga, Mangochi, Zomba, Ntcheu, and Balaka have fuelled in me as they have told me their frustrations with unemployment and their struggle to start or grow a business in a country where the DPP government has allowed market terms and conditions to be dictated by foreigners.
Mr Speaker, Sir, if Providence allows us to cast off this tumour called the DPP, then the alternative vision that young Malawians have inscribed on my heart; the alternative vision I have pledged to fight for on their behalf; the alternative vision I would pursue as a servant-leader president of Malawi, is this:
A NEW MALAWI ENJOYED BY EVERYONE!
A NEW MALAWI ENJOYED BY EVERYONE!
MALAWI WATSOPANO WOKOMERA TONSE!
That is what our people want, and that is what we promise to deliver if trusted to govern. So what will A New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone look like? What would distinguish what the recent letter from our Catholic bishops described as “A New Era in Malawi” from the current diseased state of affairs? There are many distinctions, but let me highlight three.
First, Mr Speaker Sir, under an MCP government, A New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone will be a country with economic opportunities for all. We will invest in infrastructure critical to economic activity. I am talking about guaranteeing electricity for industry throughout the day and creating a Solar Energy National Subsidy Effort (Sense) to make electricity accessible to homes even off the grid. I am talking about making our cities attractive for investment by making dirt-roads in our cities a thing of the past. I am talking about implementing irrigation schemes and employing irrigation technologies to make our farms productive in and out of season.
I am talking about scaling up import substitution opportunities in order to improve the country’s trade balance and overall current account status. I am talking about adopting an aggressive policy that promotes the production of exportable commodities. I am talking about expanding the infant agro-industrial manufacturing even if it means initially substituting the imported food commodities which the country can produce for itself. I am talking about giving private sector businesses tax breaks for giving young people under the age of 30 part-time jobs so that more young people have a chance to start earning an income. It was sad to note that the only thing the President had to offer young people was the construction of more stadiums, probably with borrowed money.
The irony is that when the President was a young man, he was given opportunities to study, to work, to build a career and to build an income, and yet as an older man, he is offering young people nothing more than stadiums that remain empty most of the year and cost millions to maintain and manage.
Secondly, Mr Speaker Sir, under an MCP government, A New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone will be a country with basic services for all. Here, I am talking about access to education, health, water and sanitation.
No Malawian citizen should sleep on the floor in a hospital or spend a whole day in the hospital without being seen by a doctor or be sent to a private pharmacy to buy medicines that have been stolen from public hospital or end up in the hospital because the government made them drink sewage water.
Thirdly, Mr Speaker Sir, under an MCP government, A New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone will be a country that embodies good governance for all. We will subject all governance institutions to be measured by a CREDIT score. This will be a public service performance evaluation system that will annually scrutinise every government department to see if it is Corruption-free, Responsive, Enthusiastic, Disciplined, Innovative and Timely. I am talking about functional government systems that work for all our people, not dysfunctional government systems that our people are forced to work around. I am talking about designing and implementing key policy reforms in various areas and sectors, enforcing policies, rules, laws, regulations and procedures that are currently gathering dust on government shelves. I am talking about going through the whole government sector by sector to remove every element that is a product of nepotism and tribalism practised at the expense of capacity and results.
The priority areas for policy reforms are macroeconomic policies, including fiscal policies, interest rate policies and exchange rate policies; policies to ease the business environment, especially to new entrants, who are often young people; agricultural policy reforms to end the political abuse of the Farm Input Subsidy programme and Admarc; and tourism policy reforms. Various reports exist (including some very recent ones) on key policy reforms needed in these areas. What is missing is a government with the spine to implement them.
Mr Speaker Sir, in light of these, the following practical steps will need to be taken in order to create A New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone:
- Mobilising the financial resources needed to carry out the key investments in infrastructure and services. Malawians do not want another president who goes abroad twice a year and each time comes back claiming that he wooed a dozen investors who never actually show up.
- By designing and implementing a more efficient and effective tax policy and tax administration system
- By improving relations with development partners. While we will take the necessary steps to build bilateral relations based on trust, we will insist that this trust must be mutual and earned, not bought or blackmailed, because we intend to restore our nation’s dignity by being a government that responds more to the demands of its people than those of its donors, a government that honours more the time-tested values of its culture than the pressures of foreign cultural wars.
- By leveraging the private sector, both domestic and foreign, for economic growth and job creation.
- Spending public resources judiciously on the key priorities
- By improving the budgeting system, ensuring that resources are allocated to infrastructural and developmental priorities (electricity, roads, irrigation, primary education, basic health, water & sanitation).
- By improving procurement systems to ensure that the country gets value for money. This implies a transparent system, where contracts are awarded to deserving bidders by Malawians who do not have a relational, economic or political conflict of interest
- By enforcing high quality standards in the execution of contracts
- By putting in place rigorous monitoring, evaluation and accountability systems to end the “Cashgate” scandal that continues today.
Mr Speaker, Sir, there is more I could say about this New Malawi Enjoyed by Everyone, but time does not allow me. What it does allow me is to issue a warning to Malawians, to remind us all that we cannot keep choosing the same party machinery and expecting a different result.
President Mutharika stood here and said that the economy Malawians are living under has been fixed; he stood here and said that the confidence of Malawians has been regained; he came in here and said publicly that after four years of his leadership, the hope of Malawians is on the rise. We as Malawians must decide if the country the DPP have created around us and the country the DPP president was describing as fixed, confident and risen are one and the same.
If they are complete opposites, then getting rid of the entire DPP disease is not a political choice. It is a civic and moral duty.
Mr Speaker, Sir, I thank you for listening.
God bless you, and God bless Malawi.
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