At a time the election fever is high, at a time when budgets for elections are being prepared and submitted to well-wishers and when political manouvering in the parties and constituencies is becoming ugly, President Peter Mutharika decided to open a new session of Parliament by burying his head in the sand again and completely ignoring the big matter of elections in his address.
The 47th session which he opened on Friday had all the makings of the state of the nation address, a time when the executive should have used the opportunity to outline legislative and policy plans which would require the support of the executive.
Instead, APM, took time to outline the successes and development projects, which coincidentally will be done by late 2018 or early 2019.
After outlining what in his mind is progress and macroeconomic stability prevalent in the country, one wonders what he will have to report when time comes for an actual state of the nation address, or better yet, address to open the next budget year come May 2018.
A simple search of the 4 620 words that APM read out on that Friday did not turn up even a single word ‘election’ and what was even more disheartening was the complete disregard of what should have been top of the agenda of this Parliament meeting and that is the electoral reform bills.
At the moment, it would be safe to assume that this government is not interested in the bills and all the talk about commitment to tabling reforms was just that, talk.
It is, therefore, not surprising that words like ‘soon’, ‘likely’, ‘at a time of our choosing’ are coming out of the Minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu, clearly the arrogance displayed by the head of state has spilled over to his men.
Not tabling these bills will be a massive betrayal to the people of Malawi, to the donors who poured millions into this exercise, to the civil society organisations who have been duped and to the Malawi Electoral Commission which was probably imagining a headache-free 2019 elections
Malawi’s neighbours are probably sniggering that in 2017, a democratic nation can still be talking about electing a president with a 50 percent majority.
At a time when gender progressiveness is prevalent across Africa with the majority of east and southern Africa setting aside seats for women Parliamentarians, APM did not make a single mention that Malawians should expect such a bill.
Instead, the president used his presence in Parliament, the House that he so loathes when the going gets tough and he is asked to respond to tough questions, to teach the Members of Parliament a thing or two about their roles.
Three years into their term, there was nothing more inappropriate than preaching to the converted.
This Parliament has the most enlightened bunch of individuals in recent times and they have gotten more things done than other MPs in the past.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should be the last to talk about Parliament’s representative role and making laws.
When it was convenient to the administration, DPP used this same Parliament to enact the most oppressive laws in this multiparty dispensation too numerous to mention: Section 46 of the Penal Code, Local Courts Act, Injunctions Act and Police Act.
Members of Parliament do not need lessons about how important they are to government, they are an arm of government for a reason and if they so wished, they could become bigger than the executive.
APM’s remark about making laws being a collective process was as pointless as the whole introduction to the opening of a Parliament. Whoever authored those meaningless introductory remarks should be fired.
The president’s lecture to the Members of Parliament brought back memories of the ill-timed public lecture that then president Bingu wa Mutharika held on July 20, 2011 as the Police butchered innocent people on the streets whose only crime was exercising their right to expression and assembly.
At the end of the useless lecture, the jaws of the MPs must have dropped to the floor for sure because it was just unbelievable and it went downhill from there.
Perhaps APM had heard the song whose lyrics go along the lines of ‘you say it best when you say nothing at all’ in this particular case, the address might as well have not taken place. As he delegates certain appearances at Parliament, he should have done the same on this, perhaps then the address might have been closer to reality.