Newly-appointed Leader of the House George Chaponda, who doubles as Minister of Agriculture and Water Development has come under heavy criticism following pictures that have gone viral on social media, showing him sleeping during Friday’s State-of-the-Nation address by President Peter Mutharika.
Other lawmakers, too, are depicted sleeping in images that have also gone viral on social media after private broadcaster Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS), which was beaming the event live, first published them.
However, Chaponda who has just replaced Foreign Affairs Minister Francis Kasaila as Leader of the House, yesterday dismissed the pictures as fake.
Mutharika’s address lasted over an hour and half, seeking to drum some hope in an ailing economy, but some of the most important people inside the National Assembly missed parts of the address as they were busy sleeping.
Nation Online readers took exceptions to the images and launched a barrage of criticism mostly questioning the conduct and seriousness of the top government officials during the most important policy speech of Mutharika’s administration.
Wrote Shadreck Phiri: “This is disappointing; so, we vote for you to go and sleep in Parliament, instead of your bedroom. ..it tells us that the President’s speech was useless and [they] could not take time to listen.”
Another page follower, Rabson HDC Nyirendah said: “It is because his [Mutharika] manuscript was very boring. You know, people are tired of decorated speeches which have no fruits. Chaponda has just shown that he is also tired like us.”
Blessings Musoro took issues with the act, saying the sleeping lawmakers should pave the way for the youth and suggested the House could have been more attentive if the President was discussing salary increment for MPs and ministers.
“Just imagine. Opening the Budget meeting then someone is busy asleep. It shows that you are not interested in the speech of the President,” added Ausman Nyirongo.
Other followers defended Chaponda and company, saying it was normal for people to sleep even in church and other occasions when the ceremony is long.
In an interview, Chaponda, defended the speech and described pictures that have gone viral as a total fabrication and work of his political enemies.
“It is not true. I was very much awake. Everybody saw me. I have seen those pictures and I can say it’s not true. Even the people on opposition side are shown sleeping, but I can also defend them to say I never saw one single MP sleeping; we were all alert and attentive. It was a good speech by the President and we were all listening with keen interest,” said Chaponda.
Added Chaponda: “When you are in positions of power, you have many enemies. I am a survivor, these are doctored pictures. A prophet is not honoured in his own country. Nyasatimes is depicting me [ as sleeping] and social media is awash of such pictures, I worked for UN for a long time and I was respected, but here at home I am always depicted in a negative way.”n