Consumer rights activist John Kapito has asked Malawi President Joyce Banda to walk the talk on austerity measures by ordering her Cabinet ministers to have some of their benefits trimmed.
In an interview on Wednesday in reaction to Bandaâ€™s stand that she cannot force Cabinet ministers to give up part of their pay as she and Vice-President Khumbo Kachali did by cutting their salaries by 30 percent last week, Kapito said Bandaâ€™s austerity measures to cut government expenditure and implementation of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) can only be taken seriously with more gestures.
â€œIf she [the President] has requested all of us to tighten our belts, why canâ€™t she ask her own people to do the same? She is pleading with us to join her in the ERP, but at the same time saying there are some people she cannot tell to do the same,â€ he said.
Kapito, who is the executive director of the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama), said it was only the President who can convince Cabinet ministers to also join in the austerity measures.
â€œShe should be able to tell them that those who are not ready to join us should go. Her statement is a mockery of the ERP and it shows whether she is serious. To me, it seems she has no clue and no idea of what she wants to achieve and what she has to do to move with the ERP,â€ he added.
Kapito also faulted the Presidentâ€™s justification of her travels and the size of entourage, saying the defence was just making Malawians angry.
â€œAt times, such statements make me wonder if it is not a curse for Malawi that we always have leaders who do not mind about our [citizensâ€™] feelings. And this time, we have a leader who does not only understand her own people, but also the country that she is living in,â€ he said.
In her briefing to journalists at the New State House in Lilongwe on Tuesday, on return from the United Nations General Assembly, the President said it would be up to individual ministers to follow what she and Kachali have done. But she said she has no powers to force anyone to give up on their perks.
Banda also announced that she has so far cut her presidential convoy by almost 25 percent and she would have loved to reduce it further had it not been for security concerns.
On the concerns about the recent floating of the kwacha and the hardships people are facing, the President said Malawians have been already suffered and it is only necessary that the country goes all the way without looking back to change the monetary policy.
Justifying the importance of her trips, Banda said the country would expect assistance derived from her visit to be almost $10 million (about K3 billion) in medical equipment, drugs, sports equipment, scholarships and food.