UDF’s flag career in the forthcoming presidential elections, Atupele Muluzi, has already been on a roller coaster of political rallies trying to position his agenda and that of his party ahead of the 2014 tripartite elections.ANTHONY KASUNDA finds out where the young Muluzi is drawing confidence that he can win the electorate.
What gives you the confidence that you will sway the electorate with your Agenda for Change and win the next elections?
The New Agenda for Change began as a conversation almost two years ago among friends who were concerned about the direction our country was taking; the enormous challenges that our country and its people were faced with.
My role is to lead in this rich debate on the need to re-think our strategy for sustainable development. That conversation is relevant today as it was then, especially considering that next year Malawi will have attained 50 years of independence. I can comfortably state that Malawians from all walks of life, both young and old, have joined in this conversation.
This quest for a new Agenda for Malawi is people-centred and in line with people’s needs and aspirations. So far, the response has been excellent but there is still a lot of work that must be done. Thousands of people have been attending our rallies and I intend to reach out to as many Malawians as possible in the coming months to share with them our ideas and to find out from them what they would like to see changed.
We are also rebuilding and rebranding the party. Learning from the mistakes of the past, but very confident of our future.
The next election will be won on ideas.
What are major policies that your government is going to implement?
We will soon be announcing dates for our national policy conference to allow stakeholders to debate our proposals. After reaching a consensus, our manifesto will be drafted and unveiled. Our vision is centred on delivering on a new agenda for Malawi. We are focusing on transformational change in four areas: The economy and growth, governance, social protection, peace and security
The stability and growth of our economy is critical and we have some ideas around transformational change in this area.
Sustainable jobs are at the heart of our agenda and we have a comprehensive jobs plan being proposed. Our plan particularly focuses on private sector driven jobs and the creation of more blue collar jobs in Malawi.
Our plan focuses on how to grow the key economic sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and mining. We have proposals around delivering on reliable infrastructure, modern healthcare and education. Not forgetting natural resources, environment and land reform.
You said once in power, you will introduce free secondary education. How do you intend to implement this policy?
What I said is that one of the areas for discussion at the policy conference will be on the possibility of introducing free secondary education in future. This will be subject to debate and the delegates to the conference will either agree to any of the proposals or reject them. I am encouraged by the debate it has generated and we are listening carefully to the conversation.
Some quarters think you are too young to be the President and that you are riding on the back of your father’s popularity as a former president, what is your comment?
Time will tell if that is true. What I am focusing on at the moment is building a strong team ready for government next year. I will be 36 next year and I am sure the framers of the Constitution knew that at 35 years of age one is mature. I am mature and I have been in politics now close to 10 years. I am ready to lead and the youth will drive the change in Malawi in 2014. However, this is not just about young people.
It is about young and old working together. Bringing old wisdom together with new thinking and new ideas. We intend to put together an inclusive administration that harnesses all talents.
If one argues that you were given an opportunity by the Joyce Banda administration to bring change and you threw in the towel by resigning, what would you say?
I was given an opportunity to serve as a minister. Change in the country is a whole different process.
You were behind the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) as then Minister of Economic Planning, do you think the plan is being implemented the way you would have loved?
President Dr. Joyce Banda inherited a very difficult state of affairs and her administration has had to make some very tough decisions in order to recover our economy. These reforms have not been easy on Malawians, but we had limited choices. The reform measures undertaken were unavoidable and to ensure the success of these reforms they must be premised upon building State capability, accountability and responsiveness. Good governance is key to the success of the recovery plan.
It can no longer be business as usual and all of government’s energies must be focused on demonstrating tangible results and deliverables.
We must, however, stay the course. We have already made the tough choices and our primary focus must be centered on ensuring our economy recovers as soon as possible.
What is your assessment of the current social economic situation in the country?
Challenging. Mostly as a result of the economic hardships our people have to endure. I remain confident however that through Gods grace and guidance we shall overcome these problems.