Q: What becomes of the opposition parties coalition after Joyce Banda, who was party toÂ the coalition, was sworn in as President of Malawi following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika?
A: Let me begin by addressing â€˜the futureâ€™ of the purported alliance. I have said this previously but it does no harm to reinforce the point. The 15 â€˜oppositionâ€™ parties have not been nor are they in an alliance. As a matter of fact, the said political parties are in a loose arrangement with the hope of possibly forming a coalition in future.
PP [Peopleâ€™s Party/Bandaâ€™s party] has been an active member of the same and until advised otherwise, it still is, notwithstanding the new political realities of Malawi.
Q: What is your take on the new government led by President Joyce Banda?
A: I believe, in all fairness, it is too early to meaningfully comment on the new administration. I am talking about the full Cabinet. Suffice it to say it is a positive attempt to reach out to other political parties. I am not competent to comment on the process or method that may have been deployed vis-a-vis other political parties to come up with the Cabinet.
Q: What are some of the issues that you would like the new administration to address as soon as possible?
A: There are several, but just to mention a few; acute drug shortages, forex woes, bad legislation, unrealistic exchange control regime, electoral issues that skew elections in favour of the party in power, policies and decisions that have divided Malawiâ€™s social and cultural fabric, corruption etc.
Further, I believe as a country, we should seriously address Malawiâ€™s unsatisfactory electoral system of first past the post (FPTP). The past richly informs us that the FPTP has delivered scornful outcomes with a candidate winning by 35 percent or so. The people of Malawi ought to start to consider other systems like the Two Round System which received a great deal of support at one of the Constitutional Review Conferences.
DD Phiri has recently raised the issue. I find a lot of merit in the Two Round System like it was the case in Liberia, Senegal, now France. The new administration will do well to revisit those recommendations reached at the 2 Constitutional Review Conferences. Of course prioritisation as always will be essential.
Q: Since the swearing-in of President Banda, we have seen many influential members of the opposition jumping onto her ship. Is this not weakening the opposition?
A: Firstly, let me comment that indeed the capitulations that have ensued since the coming in of the new administration is something that has caught public attention. The people of Malawi have the opportunity to weigh the actions of such individuals.
Secondly, it is again too early to determine to what extent, if any, the opposition has been affected. Besides, the situation as of now is most fluid as it is not very clear as to who is in opposition and who is not. The true picture will begin to emerge, I believe, when Parliament convenes on May 18.
Q: Some critics say the opposition has run out of ideas because you never imagined change of government hence the silence. What is your take on this?
A: This, in my view, is a sweeping statement. The new administration has just started; we did not have the new Cabinet until last week. For the major part of April, the whole nation was in mourning. I, therefore, wonder what anyone would have expected the opposition to be saying during this period.
Besides, the new Cabinet, drawn from several political parties, has brought its own dynamics. Those that have an understanding of the peculiar situation Malawi finds herself in will be slow to deliver such a damning verdict. As some have positively commented about Petraâ€™s Manifesto, the party has a clear road map for making Malawi economically and socially sound.
Talk about its unique agenda for uplifting the disillusioned youth through establishment of mobile polytechnics; aiming for finished products as opposed to the vague policy of value addition which so far has merely ensured continued exportation of raw materials in disguised form, establishment of co-operatives to empower women, construction of state of the art hospital, modern transportation infrastructure, establishment of a sports academy, just to mention a few.
The party truly and strongly remains in business.Â I would, therefore, urge patience on the part of such individuals. There comes a moment in life when one must hold oneâ€™s tongue. That is wisdom. Of course, such moments are not few. Currently, I believe we are in such a moment.
Q: What will be your driving agenda now with this change?
A: The answer to that question will be principally informed by the performance of the new administration. Regardless of what eventually becomes of the 15-member political grouping, political parties will have to go back to the drawing board. As for Petra, I have already made it clear we have a big agenda for the country and fortunately for the party, it has never been focused on the deceased Head of State.
Our focus has at all times been the pathetic state and miseries of the rural masses and the backwardness of the country as a whole. Something must be done as a matter of urgency.
Q: What is your take on the Government of National Unity that the President has created with her Cabinet?
A: I wish the team well. The work before it is immense. It will require a high sense of patriotism, professionalism and sacrifice. Lastly, it is proper for me to spell out clearly that in all essence a civil servant should have a home where to go after all work is done.