Time to be counted
It is that time again when all the 193 legislators converge in Lilongwe at Parliament Buildings in City Centre, to deliberate upon matters of public importance which we, the constituents, have purportedly asked them to discuss on our behalf.
Did I say 193? Well, not all of them find their way into the chambers sadly. It has become common practice for some Members of Parliament (MPs) to miss Parliament sessions and the high rate of absenteeism has even been an issue of concern for the speakers.
Some years ago, one iron lady, who was then Clerk of Parliament, tried to instil discipline in the absconding MPs by withholding their sitting allowances. She must have rued the day she decided to implement this for they (legislators) came out in full force, baying for her blood. I bet there must have been jubilation among some of them when the lady was finally given the boot, after allegedly being involved in corrupt acts.
That is not the subject for today. The fact of the matter is that our legislators have assembled in Lilongwe, at a time when there is a mound of issues that have to be delved into, which have been giving people sleepless nights.
High on the agenda are the incessant electricity blackouts that have almost paralysed all sectors. Aside from seeking answers on tangible solutions that have been explored, questions are most likely going to be raised regarding the confusion that has characterised the planned procurement of diesel generators that were meant to cushion the public during the dark hours.
If indeed the legislators are in Lilongwe to promote the interests of the people, then surely one of them will make a bold stand by demanding an account from those entrusted with responsibility on how far they have gone with the issue to do with the botched ADMARC-Zambia maize deal. George Chaponda might have long waved goodbye to Cabinet life, but surely he has to be held accountable if at all he committed crimes, and you and I know that he was not the only bad apple within the Cabinet cycle, and indeed, the public service system. Both the ADMARC board and management have to face the music for their role in the mess.
While we are talking agriculture, the rains are here but have people made use of their Farm Input Subsidy -FISP coupons yet? We are being given the impression by the line minister that distribution was concluded and distribution is in process. Allow me not to waste space on the Transglobe Produce Export issue, for the ping pong that characterised it would only drive one insane.
Suffice to say that MPs made a good move to curtail deliberations this other day, insisting that the issue about Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chairperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga’s gag order be addressed.
We had heard ‘pathological’ talk being peddled by the State President and his nemesis, the Leader of Opposition and the battle continued in Parliament where the two gave their address.
President Mutharika thought it wise to lecture the parliamentarians about their roles and responsibilities (never mind the fact that they have already undergone orientation after being elected).
“I have seen times when Members of Parliament represent their parties more than the people.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?” Mutharika said in part.
This Lazarus Chakwera was not going to take lying down, thus branding the President’s speech as a missed opportunity.
“…the President’s address cemented and metastasized s depressing fact to which we must now all reconcile ourselves. That fact is that we Malawians are in the unenviable position of of having a President and an Executive so incompetent at leading and so insensitive to the suffering of the people they govern,” read part of Chakwera’s response to Mutharika’s address.
Regardless of which side of the fence you are sitting on, this is surely going to be an interesting session of parliament.
There are indeed a lot of issues Malawians feel their publically elected representatives have to discuss in this particular session.
Lest we forget, people in Lilongwe’s Area 18 A were forced to drink contaminated water, a matter they would like to put behind them but they can only bring closure if their MP asks the necessary questions to the right authorities in Parliament, never mind the parallel proceedings in the court of law on the same.
Perhaps the billion Kwacha question that everyone is hoping will be answered during the discussions at Parliament is: What next on the many audit reports that have exposed gross abuse and mismanagement of public funds in most government departments and agencies? We have heard on numerous occasions top public officers giving flimsy excuses or owning up their mistake when grilled by parliamentary committees. Well, now is the ideal time to ensure that the issues are put to rest, and somebody is held to account.
Otherwise, it would equally be a ‘missed opportunity’ if the legislators decide to put the interests of their political masters first, at the expense of the needs and wants of Malawians who elected them. The legislators must earn their keep, and now is the perfect time for them to stand and be counted, before Parliament rises.
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