Vice-President Saulos Chilima Sunday punched holes in the government’s response plan to Covid-19, saying the current administration is facing a serious deficit of public trust in the way it is handling the pandemic.
But Minister of Information Mark Botomani laughed off Chilima’s claims, saying Malawians’ trust in their government is intact.
In his address Sunday evening, Chilima said the public’s reaction to messages from the government on Covid-19 proves that they do not recognise the current leadership as a credible source of information.
He said every statement from government about Covid-19 is received with serious doubt and suspicion.
“This is sad and regrettable at so many levels. Firstly, it hampers the government’s efforts in effectively managing the crisis. Any credible public health response requires buy-in from the very people that it is meant to serve. If people do not have trust in the government, they will not cooperate in interventions that are meant to save their own lives.
“Secondly, lack of trust in the government messaging on coronavirus will lead people to lower their guard and ignore basic instructions for preventing the contraction of the virus. They will ignore instructions of health personnel on hygiene and social distancing. The result is that they will put themselves, their loved ones and their communities in great danger,” Chilima said.
He said the country needs vigorous and strategic leadership in launching a serious fight against the virus.
“At this hour, Malawi needs unifying leadership that is not absent and that does not shy away from taking responsibility and motivating vigilance and action and action from duty bearers and every other citizen. This is a war,” he said.
Chilima also urged his boss, President Peter Mutharika to invite members of the opposition, civil society leaders, religious leaders, industry captains and even celebrities to be part of the national response.
“In that way a clear message will be sent to every Malawian that we are in this together and that whatever steps and measures we will take will be driven for the common good. This is no time for using the pulpit of government to gain political mileage.
“The stakes are way too high for us to be grandstanding and seeking to gain political advantage out of this. Let us all together own the solution to this crisis in the spirit of umunthu,” Chilima said.
He then accused some Cabinet ministers of disobeying the Covid-19 message and being busy conducting campaign meetings where social distancing is not obeyed.
Chilima, who is also UTM president, urged Capital Hill to make the revised risk allowances for health care workers permanent and not only for the Covid-19 pandemic.
On government’s proposal to implement a 21-day lockdown, Chilima said the lockdown should be driven by science and should be fit for the purpose.
He said restricting Malawians to their homes for three weeks without guaranteeing them food rations is like condemning them to death by starvation.
On the July 2 presidential election, Chilima urged Malawians to register in their large numbers to exercise their right of choosing a leader of their choice during the poll.
He warned those allegedly registering underaged children to enable them to vote in the coming election as well as those allegedly buying voter registration cards to stop that forthwith.
“I would like to remind these criminals that Malawians have had enough of your shenanigans. Do not test their patience. They are watching you. We are watching you.
“We shall ensure that no one, absolutely no one, steals this election. The country needs to move on. Malawians do not want to be voting every year. They want their lives to return to normalcy,” Chilima said.
But Botomani urged the veep to take politics out of the Covid-19 fight, saying that it is the very reason government has been resisting attempts to include politicians in the response team.
According to Botomani, government has the right personel to help it effectively fight the pandemic and politicians should stay out of the way and let government do its job.