Cama executive director John Kapito says Malawi President Joyce Bandaâ€™s administration has failed to defend Malawians from the economic and social challenges in the aftermath of the recent kwacha devaluation.
In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Kapito accepted it was not wrong for government to devalue the kwacha, but argued the authorities did not understand the implications of the move, thereby failed to put in place mechanisms of mitigating the effects of such action.
The Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) boss said his organisation recently proposed a project to the Ministry of Finance aimed at monitoring market prices of basic and essential goods and services in order to keep the consumer informed about correct prices but got no response.
Said Kapito: â€œWhat we are saying as consumers is that if the current administration did and continues not to understand the effects of devaluation on local masses, then they better step down.
â€œEverywhere in the world, governmentâ€™s main responsibility is to [mitigate] the economic and social challenges that their people face and so far the current administration has failed to live up [to the mark] and be relied upon.â€
Added Kapito: â€œThey do not seem to be in charge of the current economic and social challenges facing Malawians. Time to blame the past is gone, now they are in charge and they need to take responsibility of any problem that Malawians are undergoing. If they canâ€™t, then call for early elections so that we have a government that is ready to understand our pain.â€
But presidential press secretary Steve Nhlane hit back at Kapito, arguing his advice might not be in good faith as he is speaking like a bitter man after not being re-elected as chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
Said Nhlane: â€œFor government to step down? That is laughable. The call for the government to step down and/or an early election is also totally uncalled for. It is only inciting people to stage more sit-ins and, therefore, irresponsible for someone who ought to be better informed and patriotic.
â€œWe know Kapito was chairperson of the Malawi Human Rights Commission for several years until mid-this year. He may be bitter that he was not re-appointed when a new commission was reinstituted. If that is the case, then he is missing the point.â€
Kapito went further arguing it is surprising that Malawians are being asked to tighten their belts while the President and her Cabinet ministers are still enjoying the best privileges.
On the proposal Cama sent to government, Kapito said: â€œThere has been no response from government and one would understand why they believe that they do not need any advice from outside, the usual we know it all just like the Bingu administration. They need to rise above board and stop blaming the past and accept the realities on the market and address the same with constructive solutions.
â€œAs a consumer [body], we support the current strikes as Malawians go into the streets to demand a decent way of life and we would want to say that they need to be heard and ask all those that go into strikes to ensure that they do so in a peaceful manner and ensure that vital services like water, health are not disrupted.â€
Cushioning the poor
Kapito said Malawi needs a good economic and social package that cushions poor Malawians with low wages, including the unemployed from both urban and rural areas.
He also said there is need for the countryâ€™s leadership to re-engage the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and various players for a more realistic economic recovery plan that could take care of the interests of the poor.
â€œThe structure of the Malawi economy is so different from the other developing countries and the current economic recovery model plan is a suicide political dosage for the current leadership. Unfortunately, both IMF and World Bank are good at showing the road to the graveyard and not the way out,â€ said Kapito.
But State House said it is wrong to expect the myriad problems that accumulated for three years to disappear within four months. It has asked Malawians to appreciate the good things that Bandaâ€™s government has done to better the lives of Malawians.
â€œAs for the devaluation, it is the evil that we all have to bear with at this point in time, hoping, however, that things will be better sooner rather than later. Devaluation was the quinine dose that we all had to endure to kick out the malaria that had been domiciled in our systems for three long years,â€ said Nhlane.
â€œIf Kapito has advice to give to the President in good faith, Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Bandaâ€™s lines are open all the time and the President listens to many people. Claims that government rejected his organisationâ€™s proposal on how best to deal with the effects of the devaluation on consumers [are false]. It is nothing more than a proposal for funding a secretariat.â€Â