Tonse government slow—HRDC
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Sunday released its assessment of the first six months of the Tonse Alliance administration and has described it as too slow for the liking of Malawians.
Briefing reporters in Lilongwe Sunday, HRDC leaders said there were troubling signs that the current administration would betray Malawians.
In the assessment, HRDC has given the administration a 50 out of 100 score, lauding it for actualising some campaign promises while chiding it for failing to provide Malawians with a clear roadmap on how to achieve its flagship programmes.
On positives, HRDC cites the arrest of some of the key figures of the Peter Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party administration on corruption allegations, the rolling out of Affordable Input Programme (AIP) at the campaign-promised price of K4,495 per 50 kilogramme bag of fertiliser, implementation of tax-free-income-band increase from K45,000 to K100,000, thereby unlocking disposable income.
HRDC says other positives by the Tonse-led government include steps taken to realise Public Sector Reforms Programme goals, operationalisation of the Access to Information law as well as having President Lazarus Chakwera going to Parliament to answer questions from legislators.
“Despite these early gains, there are some early warning signs that what was promised to be a new day might have actually been a false dawn. The voices of discontent are rising among Malawians and we, too, as HRDC, have seen it. This includes growing concern on the fight against corruption that appears to be easing back into business-as-usual mode; the slowness in decision-making that is proving costly, as evidenced by the unprecedented 28 percent fuel price hike that appears to have accumulated over time.
“The lack of seriousness in getting value from the mining industry, the amateurish and corrupt management of AIP, the lack of a clear roadmap for the reform drive and the creation of one million jobs, furthermore, the broken promises on free electricity and water connections as well as reductions in passport fees are a painful reminder of just how the political elite quickly forgets how they got into their positions,” HRDC said.
HRDC Chairperson Gift Trapence says there had been little improvements in the fight against corruption, arguing that the anti-graft momentum that was there in the early days of the current administration had fizzled.
Trapence says one of the major impediments to the fight against corruption was the independence of the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB), but expressed concern that the administration was yet to make notable moves to facilitate this.
“HRDC demands that these legal reforms are implemented in the shortest time possible. And while the administration is trying hard to show the public that it is doing something about corruption, there are allegations that certain Tonse Alliance government officials have already accumulated assets worth hundreds of millions of kwacha within the six months they have been in power.
“And despite HRDC exposing alleged corrupt practices—through its whistleblower initiative— and sending them to ACB for investigations and possible prosecution—we are not impressed with the pace and attitude with which the ACB is treating our reports,” Trapence said.
HRDC also takes a swipe at the government over last Wednesday’s increase in petrol, diesel and paraffin prices, describing the development as a good example of how procrastination in decision-making can cause harm to households, firms and the national economy.
According to HRDC, the procrastination started with the delay to institute boards of statutory bodies after the Tonse Administration dissolved them.
It says those boards included that of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), which also sets fuel prices. According to HRDC, without a board for months, Mera could not act on price reviews even as determining factors such as landed costs, global oil prices and the local exchange rate were rapidly rising.
“Had the President not procrastinated, the board could have staggered the increases as events changed over the months. The material effect of that indecisiveness has now raised transport costs to unbearable levels, increased operational costs for organisations already crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic and brought more pain to consumers than it should have. This kind of leadership is unacceptable.
“Furthermore, President [Lazarus] Chakwera and his Vice President Saulos Chilima promised, during the campaign, that they would deal with power blackouts. But since they took over power, the situation has worsened. The sad part of it all is that the new government has not rolled out any plan—whether short, medium or long term—to ensure sustainable energy supply,” HRDC says.
On the one million jobs promise, HRDC says there is nothing on the ground that points to progress on the creation of one million jobs in a year.
“HRDC demands that the Ministry of Labour not only provides a roadmap for creating these jobs by the end of January 2021, but also provide evidence of jobs created so far, which should be at least 500,000 since half a year has passed,” HRDC says.
The HRDC also accused Chakwera of doing nothing to reduce presidential powers as promised during the campaign period.
“President Chakwera promised to reduce presidential powers but, six months into the job, it is clear that he has begun to enjoy the trappings of power so much that he has decided to pretend he did not make any promises at all. So far, President Chakwera has not bothered to initiate changes in the law to facilitate the reduction of presidential powers,” HRDC says.
But Information Minister Gospel Kazako has said a 50 percent score after being in power for only six months is not a very bad result.
Kazako said the Tonse Administration was committed to delivering on all its campaign promises.
“If we have achieved 50 percent in only six months, what about after a year? What about two years and what about five years? We are very much committed to giving Malawians the type of Malawi they want,” Kazako said.
On the allegations that the Tonse Government was slow in implementing some critical issues, Kazako said the Chakwera-led administration would make sure that things are fast-tracked in the new year.