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Tonse’s dance with power

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Puludzu

This week marked exactly two years since the Tonse Alliance, made up of nine political parties, assumed the reins of power through the ballot on June 23, 2020. It has been a tough ride for President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse-led administration and it is perhaps their determination, more than their capabilities, to move Malawians from the pangs of poverty and challenges that are giving them sleepless nights, that have instilled faith in the populace that there could be a silver lining at the end of it all.

For starters, whether one accepts it or not, it is a fact that, at the dawn of the Tonse administration, the country was ravaged by the twin problems of cyclones and the Covid-19 pandemic that hit many districts and caused excruciating pain to most people. Much as others might accuse the government of ‘magnifying’ these twin problems at every given opportunity or diverting people from ‘real’ issues, It was not easy navigating our way out of disasters such as Tropical Storm Ana while, every day, lives were being lost due to Covid-19. It reached a point where government had to divert some of the financial resources at its disposal towards combating these problems but, sadly, some of it ended up being manipulated by those who were entrusted to champion the cause. Up to this day, we have not come to the bottom of the Covid-19 funds abuse issue. And the health sector itself has not been enjoying a healthy life as it is usually saddled with problems such as shortage of personnel and medical supplies.

Be that as it may, Covid-19 and the natural disasters were not supposed to give the government a free pass from what they had promised Malawians upon getting into power and the initial indecisiveness which President Chakwera displayed, such as delay to re-jig his Cabinet and breathe life in the whole public service system, did not help matters.

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That is not to say it has all been bad. We saw Chakwera rising from slumber and, before long, road construction projects started (including roads that had been heavily damaged by heavy rains and floods). There is still a lot that needs to be done in this area and we have hope that, by appointing a civil engineer to oversee the transport and public works ministry, the president made the right call.

At least we have also seen government making good of its promise to give people free water connection but as to how many have so far been connected, that is a story for another day.

In my view, the issue of food security has not been given the full attention it deserves. Malawians, especially those that could not afford, were obviously happy when the Tonse-led government lived up to its billing to slash the price of fertiliser under the Affordable Inputs Programme to K4,495 but that, however, was short-lived as, soon, the prices would shoot through the roof and the subsequent growing season would be more chaotic, with farmers failing to access the commodity as it was not readily available. Let us wait and see how things would pan out now that farmer clubs have come into the picture.

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Speaking of food, we heard this very week that the price of the staple grain maize has also gone up, which could spell doom because many people did not harvest as much as they had anticipated due to the problem we talked about earlier, to do with availability of inputs. Have we purchased or saved enough maize as a country to ensure that no one starves should the worse come to worst? Last time I heard, one parastatal had almost sold some of the maize available to neighbouring Zimbabwe and nothing inspiring has been coming out from the National Food Reserve Agency.

Tonse’s efforts to ‘clear the rubble’ have somewhat been a mixed bag. While Chakwera has pledged to uphold the rule of law and rendered the necessary support to governance institutions, his own political bed-fellows have not given him joy, as some of them have been entangled in issues of suspected fraud and corruption. Already, he has had to show the exit door to two of his Cabinet ministers over such issues within his two years at the helm. The more he digs to clear the rubble, the more others keep piling trash on top while some would want to distract him from the mission for their selfish interest.

To this day, we remain a largely importing nation and it appears not much has been done to stimulate the private sector to ensure that we produce more goods and services of quality to meet our needs and those of other countries. As a result, prices of the most basic commodities have taken an upward trajectory, punctuated by the recent devaluation of the Kwacha.

Who knows? We might just end up being surprised once the benefits from the private sector labs under the Presidential Delivery Unit start showing. There could be more but, in a nutshell, that is how I would sum up Tonse Alliance’s journey in government thus far.

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