President Lazarus Chakwera has earned praise from critics and commentators alike for his stance on corruption and transparency which they say resonates well with the aspirations of Malawians.
In his speech on Saturday evening, the President, among others, said the nine-party Tonse Alliance administration he is leading will not shield any corrupt officials and emphasised that there will be transparency in procurement processes.
Chakwera also said he was aware that some unscrupulous businesspersons register business entities under different names to dominate and reduce chances of smaller bidders. He also warned people who stole public funds not to seek public sympathy, saying the law will take its course.
Reacting to the speech in a telephone interview yesterday, governance commentator Rafiq Hajat said Chakwera’s speech echoed the desires most Malawians have had of a responsive, clean, performance-driven government.
He said: “So, basically it made all the right noises. I think the challenge is in walking the talk and obviously it is not a question of an individual, it is a question of revamping an entire system of governance.”
Hajat, who is also executive director for Institute of Policy Interaction (IPI), said unless stringent systems of checks and balances and monitoring and evaluation are put in place, the country will drift back to the old ways of plundering public resources.
In a separate telephone interview, politician-cum-commentator Humphrey Mvula described Chakwera’s speech as encouraging and in line with his campaign promises.
He said most Malawians were looking forward to a new Malawi where things would be done procedurally and corruption would be a thing of the past.
“The issues which he mentioned in his speech are the very same issues that have been fundamental to the decline of Malawi’s economy because previous governments have paid lip service,” Mvula said.
While stating that it was commendable that Chakwera will not shield anyone involved in corruption, Mvula said the President and Cabinet should formulate strong guidelines in curbing serious crimes such as corruption, fraud and money laundering.
He also hailed Chakwera’s emphasis on State institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Financial Intelligence Authority, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and the Judiciary, among others, to be empowered to be key players in the fight against corruption.
In the past, governance and oversight institutions such as the ACB, the National Audit Office, Directorate of Public Prosecutions and Financial Intelligence Authority have been systematically crippled through reduced funding, among others. The situation rendered them ineffective.
In his speech, Chakwera also indicated that he had reduced the presidential motorcade by almost a third to a maximum of 10 vehicles as a means to save resources. He also said Tonse Alliance partners will not be above the law.
In an interview yesterday, United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga said the President’s intentions on issues relating to businesses and award of contracts will only be in good faith if they will not be a ploy to replace innocent businesspersons with pro-Tonse Alliance entrepreneurs.
“When a leader makes such a statement, it raises people’s expectations and what is remaining is to see implementation,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi could not be reached on his mobile number while the former governing party’s secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey did not pick up our calls.
Chakwera’s speech on Saturday came barely a day after his predecessor Peter Mutharika issued a public statement distancing himself from the cement deal in which K5 billion worth of the product was imported into the country duty-free using his presidential entitlement.
In the past two weeks, police have arrested several people, including Mutharika’s personal bodyguard Norman Chisale, and charged them with fraud and money laundering in relation to the imported cement.