Four of the initially scheduled five presidential running mates last night took to the podium of Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe to articulate their parties’ policies ahead of the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In alphabetical order of their political parties, the four who turned up were Mohammed Sidik Mia (Malawi Congress Party-MCP), Jerry Jana (People’s Party-PP), Frank Mwenifumbo (United Democratic Front-UDF) and Michael Usi (UTM Party).
Conspicuously missing from the packed Bicc auditorium was Everton Chimulirenji who is running mate to President Peter Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The audience to the debate organised by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) booed after ZBS journalist Joab Frank Chakhaza, who hosted the show, announced that Chimulirenji had failed to make it despite earlier confirming to the organisers his participation.
Some of the predominantly partisan patrons were ovearheard chanting: “Wathawa! Wathawa! Wathawa…! [He could not stand the heat].”
Generally, the four running mates agreed that poor leadership has led to a decay of the fundamental values the country’s democracy was founded on.
Mia, who set the ball rolling, said: “Best leadership will come through servant leadership uniting all Malawians is key to progressing together.”
Usi echoed the sentiments and added that there is a lot of rhetoric by politicians and very little to show for the many promises that are made.
But the discussants differed on a question relating to an earlier proposal by the Special Law Commission for a ‘super constituency’ to take 28 female legislators, one from each district, into the National Assembly to beef up female representation.
Jana opposed the classification and declassification of women, saying women should equally earn their ticket to Parliament.
However, Usi, Mia and Mwenifumbo agreed that women remain vulnerable in society despite having the potential to contribute to the country’s development.
The contentious issue of attacks, abductions and killing of people with albinism (PWAs) was also passionately tackled by the quartet which faulted the current administration for not doing enough to arrest the problem.
In his contribution, Mia dismissed government’s decision to purchase alarms for PWAs as announced by Mutharika last week. However, Mia’s contribution was in sharp contrast to the position of his party president Lazarus Chakwera who is on record as having supported the move.
On his part, Mwenifumbo, suggested that security agencies such as police and army should lead the investigations while Usi dwelled on a supposedly relaxed approach by government to deal with the vice.
Other questions during the two and a half hours debate centred on mining, education and agriculture where candidates outshone each other based on their knowledge and expertise in the fields.
The debate was not without drama as, towards the end, a power outage nearly spoiled the show, forcing some patrons to walk out before the close.
The intermittent power interruptions, which occurred three times lasting two minutes each time, irritated the attentive audience. n