FATSANI GUNYA engages Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president and leader of opposition, LAZARUS CHAKWERA, for his insights on various issues on the country’s socio-political landscape.
Were you satisfied with the way matters proceeded in Parliament during the Mid-Term Budget Review sitting?
Not at all. There are a number of reasons such is the case. Firstly, parliamentarians were forced to discuss a budget whose authorising power has been reduced immensely. Secondly, government failed to bring an appropriation bill to legalise the receipt of K4.6 billion introduced in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) vote, which is irregular and unprocedural. Thirdly, parliamentarians approved a mid-year budget whose nominal value shrunk from K929.9 billion to K902.6 billion. Finally, MPs from government side voted without their conscience, thereby denying their constituents quality contribution in the chamber, such as the shooting down of the private members bill that was seeking the independence of the director of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and his/her deputy which was meant to strengthen it and show our seriousness in the fight against corruption.
What are some of the areas you feel Parliament would have done better?
A number of things should have been done: Firstly, Parliament should have rejected a budget whose real value was approximately equal to K370 billion as it represents loss of essential services and goods which were to benefit Malawians. Secondly, Parliament should have stood firm in forcing the Minister of Finance to bring an appropriation bill for the receipt and expenditure of the new resources introduced under the OPC vote to be authorised by Parliament. In addition, Parliament, through its business committee, should have found ways for the President, Professor Peter Mutharika, to come to Parliament and respond to the questions directed at his office and those related to the economic performance of Malawi. We believe the questions were crucial to the extent that they needed his personal presence and would have demonstrated his commitment to this cause. Furthermore, the Leader of the House was supposed to reduce the tendency of varying order paper on daily basis as that demonstrated that government has no clue on what business is a priority for the country.
Do you think the arrest of two MCP MPs earlier in the just-ended session affected the quality of deliberations in the House?
Definitely, it did. As everybody may be aware, these MPs might have had issues to present on behalf of their constituents in Parliament and present statements as committee chairpersons. Subjecting them to arbitrary arrests and attending to bail requirements deprived the constituents the opportunity to have their concerns passed on to government.
Recently there was a fracas at a rally MCP jointly held with other major opposition parties in Mzuzu. How did you read the situation?
It is sad that some people would want to deliberately perpetuate intolerance, violence and irresponsibility. Malawians should be and feel protected regardless of political affiliation. We do not want a government that presides over anarchy. Incidents of mob justice are being perpetuated because of the perception that the police service is incompetent or politically compromised. This is worrisome and unacceptable. The police ought to be professional, rising above party politics. The youth should desist from being abused because such acts wreck their own future. Politicians should put national interest or the common good of Malawians above personal interests and agendas. It is sad to note that the Mzuzu saga demonstrated the extent to which the Executive arm of government disregards our Republican Constitution which guarantees freedom of association and our laws by not thoroughly dealing with the perpetrators.
With the 2019 elections ahead, you seem to be leading a beleaguered party seemingly full of infighting. Did you see this coming when you were taking up the mantle before the last elections?
We are human beings with various political and personal ambitions. In a truly democratic environment, we can all thrive based on our competencies, charisma and, most importantly, character. Before I can lead I must be a good follower. I sought God’s leadership then and I still seek His leadership as I face the future. I can trust God through Jesus Christ who has been to the future, to lead me and give me wisdom which I cannot get anywhere else.
What do you think should be done to rescue Malawi from the socio-economic challenges it is facing?
We have to re-examine our policies and promote only those that truly empower Malawians to prosper. We have to examine our approach to politics so that we encourage commitment and love of our country above patronage, rent seeking and appeasement. Above all, the culture of corruption, fraud, entitlement and wastage must be dealt with urgently through genuine transformation. Unfortunately, we all talk about changing our mindset but expect the other person to do the changing and not us.
Some people have called for President Peter Mutharika to resign; do you share the sentiments?
Let the President lead; let him continue to have the trust of all Malawians; let him be consistent, transparent and accountable. He need not wait for people to call for his head
Do you ever regret joining mainstream politics?
I never regret following what I believe to be my Master’s leading in my life. I bear God’s light and I am determined to let it shine even in the darkest moments the world of mainstream politics may come up with at any given point in time. I am a servant of God and a servant of God’s people. I believe in servant leadership and a better Malawi for all is possible and also believe in nothing for us without us. n