….To every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.–Romans 12:3b
On September 4 2020, Malawi President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera delivered a State of the Nation Address (Sona) in which he outlined his vision which the august House will be deliberating during the 49th Session of Parliament. This is the vision and dream list that will in part fulfill the Tonse Alliance campaign promises.
But within the list, the President also highlighted some of the quandary the government finds itself in. Firstly, Chakwera openly told Malawians that he has found the Executive to be too powerful, the Judiciary underfunded, the Legislature subservient and all three arms of government steeped in corrupt practices.
Secondly, the President said his government will construct a modern Military Referral Hospital in Lilongwe.
And true to his campaign promises, the First Citizen said he will three times appear before the current Session of Parliament to answer questions from legislators. The law provides for Question Time for the President, but since the adoption of the new Constitution in 1994, only the first president in the multiparty era, Bakili Muluzi, during his first term from 1994 to 1999 answered questions in Parliament.
Muluzi’s successor, Bingu wa Mutharika (deceased) vehemently refused to appear before Parliament to fulfill the constitutional requirement.
President Joyce Banda, who was Bingu’s estranged vice-president but ascended to the presidency in line with constitutional order in April 2012 following Bingu’s death, never attempted to appear before Parliament as did her successor Peter Mutharika who ruled the country from 2014.
In appreciation of the powerful hand of the Judiciary in resolving the 2019 presidential debacle, Chakwera said he will establish two new divisions in the High Court, namely the Probate and Family Division as well as the Financial Crimes Division; the latter to fast-track the disposal of corruption cases.
Additionally, his government aims to increase by 2022, the number of Senior Resident Magistrates available in all 28 Districts.
Furthermore, Chakwera aims to construct the Judiciary Headquarters to be housed across the street from the Parliament Building in Lilongwe.
Moving to the Legislature, Chakwera said he plans to construct 193 constituency offices as permanent access points for Malawians to reach their MPs. These would be complemented by the construction of official residences for MPs within their constituencies, thus ensuring MPs’ access to the electorates.
On education, the President said he plans to increase enrollment in universities from 36 000 in the 2019/20 academic year to nearly 48 000 in the 2020/21 academic year. He will, additionally, launch the National Youth Service; train 3 000 youths in vocational, livelihoods and technical skills; and equip 35 000 youths with leadership skills training, among others.
This Sona was brilliant and must simply be seen as Chakwera’s roadmap to delivering his campaign promises. It is his vision; and the mark of the man will be measured upon how he delivers on the plan.
On another note, unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline are in themselves very good principles but have over the years after the Malawi Congress Party loss in 1994 been seen as not useful. But in a genuine democracy, these principles are not just useful but essential to building a better Malawi.
Indeed, there is no room for divisive party rhetoric. Chakwera has said he will be discussing with the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa on building this better Malawi.
We are Malawi, let us resolve to join Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima on the race to creating the better Malawi we all want.